Charities responded swiftly to Grenfell.

But there are lessons to learn. My charity’s work at the scene taught us the need for a better coordinated, more culturally sensitive response to disaster.

Almost one year ago, in the burning heat of a summer day last Ramadan, the holy month in which Muslims fast, I woke to the tragic news of the Grenfell Tower fire and immediately felt compelled to go and help.

When I arrived, it was a scene of chaos, with firefighters still battling with the raging tower. Men and women were searching for loved ones and looking at me in despair. Community members were turning up in their numbers to provide donations of all kinds: the outpouring of generosity was unprecedented and like nothing I had ever seen before. Within hours I had a team of volunteers and staff armed with blankets and water bottles near the tower and 48 hours later we had a warehouse set up for distribution.

As I got into the respite centre, my hijab and bright green Muslim Aid T-shirt were the source of some familiarity and comfort to members of the community waiting for news about their neighbours, families and loved ones. We quickly assessed the immediate needs of those affected by the unfolding tragedy.

In the days after the fire, the voluntary sector had to step up and intervene to meet people’s cultural and faith-sensitive needs, from providing modest Islamic clothing and emotional support through to halal meals. The spirit of humanitarian action displayed mainly by the community itself and supported by an array of local organisations, businesses, volunteers and others filled the void where there was a lack of official direction, coordination and information.

Our report, published on 30 May, finds that many voluntary organisations, however ill-prepared, stepped up to the challenge of meeting the needs of the affected community where the statutory authorities fell short, especially in the early stages immediately after the fire. It identifies challenges and opportunities for the ongoing work of the sector in helping those affected – and pinpoints issues that this disaster raises for emergency response more broadly.

The Grenfell disaster has taught us many lessons that we need to learn. We owe it to the people whose lives were lost to ensure a more effective and better preparedness for disaster response on the ground. The key recommendations of the report are:

Draw on local capacities

In a major, complex disaster, local secular and faith organisations – although they may not have experience in emergency response – can draw on their local rootedness to act quickly and sensitively in line with the needs of communities they understand. This capability needs to be better appreciated and supported, including in partnership with local authorities and national actors with expertise in emergency response.

Context matters

Disaster response systems, behaviours and interventions all need to be tailored to the varying local socioeconomic and cultural dynamics in the short and longer term.

Embrace diversity within emergency response

Diverse communities need to receive support that is sensitive to their varying needs. Such capabilities need to be embraced as core to emergency response in the UK going forward.

Strengthen coordination

More effective mechanisms need to be developed, both by the voluntary sector itself and governmental authorities, to better harness the collective capabilities of the voluntary sector, including those offered by faith organisations, in emergency response.

Act and speak out

When the effects of a disaster are overlaid with inadequate action and injustice, the voluntary sector needs to consciously and continuously strike the right balance between practical action and finding different ways of speaking out in support of the needs and rights of the people who are affected.

Source: Guardian Voluntary Sector Online

Charity Tax Commission Call For Evidence

Rationale for a review of charitable tax reliefs

Tax reliefs for charities are estimated to be worth £3.77bn a year, the main ones being business rates relief, Gift Aid and VAT relief, while reliefs for individuals are worth £1.47bn. The last comprehensive review of charity taxation and reliefs took place over 20 years ago. Since then, the voluntary sector and the environment in which it operates have changed significantly. The sector has grown in scale and charities now do far more, including playing a bigger role in the delivery of public services. Britain’s departure from the EU also presents potential opportunities to review a number of issues related to the tax treatment of charities.

Against this backdrop and ongoing pressures on local authority spending and other funding streams for the voluntary sector, we believe it is a good time to do an in-depth assessment of how the tax system functions in relation to charities and what – if any – changes could help position them better to fulfil their long term strategic role in society.

Read more about the Charity Tax Commission

About this call for evidence

This call for evidence seeks views and evidence from anyone with relevant knowledge, expertise or experience of the system of charitable tax reliefs in the UK, including charities, donors, academics, think tanks, representative bodies, accountants, philanthropy and financial advisers, tax professionals and members of the public.

In particular, we are keen to receive thoughts about the effectiveness of current reliefs, which are summarised in the consultation document (Word, 55KB), and whether the existing system could be improved in order for charities to better serve their beneficiaries. We welcome all ideas about how the tax system can help to create an operating environment in which charities can maximise the public benefit they generate.

Respondents should in their comments reflect the commission’s determination to make practical, evidence-based recommendations focused on increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the current tax system. To help get a sense of priorities, we would like you to demonstrate how ideas for reform keep within the current fiscal settlement by indicating what other areas of charity tax relief or spending might be deprioritised in order to provide expenditure in other areas.

The secretariat will be arranging meetings with stakeholders during the call for evidence period and are hosting open sessions for interested parties in different parts of the UK.

The dates of these regional public evidence sessions are:

  • 27 June Birmingham, in partnership with BVSC. 12.00 – 14.00
  • 3 July Manchester, in partnership with GMCVO. 14.00-16.00
  • 9 July Newcastle, in partnership with VONNE. 14.00-16.00

Members of the commission will be in attendance at each session, as well as speakers and key stakeholders from the locality and further afield. If you would like to attend, please fill out our booking form to secure your place.


Submit your evidence

Please submit your completed forms to [email protected]. Please include your name, or where applicable, your organisation name in the subject line.

Please submit your evidence by 17.00, Friday 6 July 2018. Unless respondents indicate to the contrary, it will be assumed that they have no objection to their response being made public. If you have any questions about the Charity Tax Commission, please contact paul.wi[email protected]

Charity Commission reform vital for civil society strategy to work

The government’s plan could have a massive, positive impact on the sector, but we must be honest about what’s needed.

By Nathan Yeowell

The government has just closed consultation on its plan to help create a stronger civil society in the UK. It’s an opportunity for the social and charitable sector to make demands of legislators while looking at itself and being honest about what it can do better for the causes, people and places it serves.

We at New Philanthropy Capital have made 21recommendations on the civil society strategy across a wide range of topics, but there are a couple of key things the government could do to make a massive, positive impact on the sector.

First, reform the Charity Commission. It is an organisation full of dedicated people, but is straining under the weight of limited resources and an increasingly conflicted remit. It should be the regulator the sector needs, not its cheerleader. The sector should investigate whether the support it offers charities should be spun out into a new, independent organisation dedicated to sector-led improvement.

We also think what the commission regulates should change. It is too focused on financial stability and organisational survival at the expense of whether charities are having an impact for beneficiaries. We want to see a toughening up of annual impact reporting as part of the commission’s processes. Many charities already do this, but many don’t – if we can get them seriously thinking about their impact, the people they serve stand to benefit.

Second, start thinking about place. Austerity means the shape and scope of local public services need to be radically re-thought. Success will depend on a new partnership between the public, private and social sectors. We believe this is best done locally – so devolving budgets to those who know where to spend them is necessary for a more impactful civil society.

It’s not enough to change where services are commissioned – how they are commissioned must change too. Our research shows that 64% of charities involved in government contracting need to subsidise the contracts with income from other work. The Social Value Act should allow commissioners to accept more expensive bids from organisations offering added value over the long-term, but this is not happening. Government needs to strengthen the act to make it useful to commissioners who are concerned to demonstrate their decisions have created value for money.

While it is important that Whitehall is a supportive friend, it is also important that the sector leads through its own initiatives. In a difficult world, we must up our game.

In answer to pressured services, philanthropic bodies need to be strategic and impact-focused about the donations they make, coordinating their grant-making to tackle difficult social problems. Making this happen will require greater transparency around where grants are going, and we strongly support initiatives from within the sector, such as 360 Giving.

Will we see action out of this strategy? As is clear from our recommendations, many issues will need to be addressed by the whole government, not just the Office for Civil Society or Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. The question is, do Tracey Crouch, the minister for sport and civil society, and Matt Hancock, the digital, culture, media and sport secretary, have the clout to bring them to the top table of a government at war over Brexit? Stranger things have happened.

Whatever the case, relying on government is a risk. Charities should be thinking about how they can make their submissions to the strategy a reality themselves.

  • Nathan Yeowell is head of policy at New Philanthropy Capital

Source: Guardian Voluntary Sector Online

The North West Social Prescribing Network

VSNW have now launched the North West Social Prescribing Network (NW SP Network) which aims to:

Engage and support health and social care leaders and decision-makers

Develop the evidence base for excellence in social prescribing

Build stronger working relationships between acute, primary, community and social care and effective, sustainable, local community action

In their latest news, they talk about how they plan to achieve these goals, what social prescribing is and how you can join the network. Plus, they provide a selection of useful resources and presentations that can bring you up to speed.

Read more


Stand Out From The Crowd For Funding Success

When it comes to grant funding, we’re all guilty of ploughing the same furrow, especially if it has reaped dividends in the past. It’s a tough funding environment, there are still £billions in grant funding available but there are over 165,000 other organisations in the voluntary sector vying for that same funding. To be successful you need to think about how to stand out from the crowd.

Understand the landscape your project operates in

We can all be a bit insular at times. We know why our organisation and the projects we work on are needed; after all we speak to our beneficiaries all the time, and we care about our work.

But do we regularly stop and give ourselves space to think about how our work fits into the wider external environment?

To make the most of funding opportunities we need to know the motivation behind them. Do your stakeholder analysis. Get to know:

  • funders who fund your type of projects. What are their aims and priorities right now?
  • what’s going on in your area – from your location to your part of the sector?
  • what are the needs of other local and/or similar organisations?
  • what are the hot topics that politicians and the media are talking about?

The environment around us is constantly changing. We need to know and understand the latest trends so we’re best placed to take advantage of them.

Visit the support and advice section on Funding Central for more information.

Match funding opportunities to your priorities – rather than the other way around

If we are honest, when times are tight we’ve all chased funding that probably wasn’t right. But let’s say it again and then again louder: don’t get distracted by funding that’s not right for your project. It’s going to waste a lot of your time and not really deliver on what’s important to your organisation (therefore your beneficiaries).

Your organisation has a vision, a mission and strategy for what you want to deliver, stick to that.

Of course you’ll want to explore new areas and projects but if they start falling outside your organisation’s scope then you need to have a fresh look at your strategy and see if it needs to change to help bring some focus.

Look for different types of funding opportunities

If you rely on one funder or one income stream, the effect of any changes to that income can be disastrous for your organisation and your beneficiaries. We know only too well that it’s hard work to replace funding for a project completely funded by one income stream.

Diversification is key to a sustainable future, so mix it up when it comes to income streams and to funders.