Charities and not for profit: state of the nation

Published by Susan Robinson on 13 February 2024

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There are some things I need to get off my chest and forgive me if you don’t agree, but with my many years’ experience of working for and with charities I feel now is the time to share them.

I am writing this on a cold, grey, wintery January morning which I feel this reflects the state of our nation at the moment.  We are in that no man’s land; life is ticking over but nothing major gets done as we gear up to the next election.   

All parties promise similar things, but they are electioneering rather than offering much substance.  There are two key issues affecting Charites at the moment, funding and people (no change on the former!)  These issues are also affecting the private sector and government bodies.  Hence a solution can’t be achieved for just one sector, they are all interrelated. 

The Government’s main source of funding is taxes and borrowing.  There is a limit on both, so how does the Government decide on allocation and how far can they stretch the money between increasing demands.  Labour talks about funding mental health support through taxes on private schools.  But if private school fees increase and become unaffordable, are there sufficient places in the state sector if a number of pupils return and at what cost to the taxpayer?  With a fall in private schools’ income and increase in state schools, will there be sufficient extra cost to fund mental health support for young people (and their parents)?  Election promises by all parties have costs and consequences.   

There has been a change in society’s issues and attitudes.  With more problems, society turns to Government to provide solutions.  When the National Health Services was set up it never envisaged the number of people it would have to support, nor the complexity and changing issues.   Schools were set up to educate but now are being required to provide social care and mental health support as well as sign posting to other services, namely food banks.   

The positive side of this improved healthcare is the longer lives many of us now enjoy, but society is not set up to meet the new challenges this brings.  I often ask charities if they did not exist what would happen to their beneficiaries?  If the charity sector did not exist, we would have a very different country with even greater social problems that we do now.  

However, the sector can’t survive without the support of society and Government.  What is the answer?  There is no easy solution but there are some actions which will not be palatable to many: 

  • Government and all political parties need to consider and set out a longer-term strategy for this country which bypasses party politics and electioneering.  One that recognises the world has changed and to survive we all need to change.  
  • Society itself needs to grow up, take responsibility but also have a heart and support those who struggle in the world we now live in. 
  • Surely the pandemic taught us the importance of caring for each other, so why do we allow carers to be paid the minimum wage?  Those caring for the elderly are often on minimum wage or even unpaid – is that what you want for yourself or your loved ones as you get older?   

You can’t blame the employers if society won’t pay the full cost for these services.   Hence, we either pay more for these services through taxes or we lower our expectations of what the state delivers.   

Government procurement policies need to change.  The cheapest is not the best if it does not or cannot deliver properly.  Conversely, the most expensive is not always the best.  An existing provider should be reviewed and challenged throughout the contract and have constructive meetings to suggest and agree improvements (don’t be adversarial).  As any charity knows when contracting for services, please make the system more user friendly.  

I feel I am being very negative and perhaps the move to February will lighten my mood, but as election talk gears up, I can’t help but feeling frustrated that so much needs to change, but I know so little in reality can change.   

We are very lucky to live in this country and have the services we have.  There are some incredible people working very hard every day to support those less fortunate and on the whole, we are not bad people.  Look inside yourself and use that goodness to make us an even better society.  

If you need further guidance and support about the topics mentioned in this article, contact our Charities and Not for Profit team here.

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