So, The Giving White Paper- one year on… how time flies, eh? It seems like only yesterday that we were combing through the original White Paper trying to work out what had actually been announced, and how much money was being stumped up, and now here we are one year later doing something quite similar.
In fairness, the top line announcement in the update is pretty clear: an additional £40m for the Social Action Fund over the next 3 years. And that has to be applauded. The problem is untangling the rest of the paper: what is actually new, what is being re-announced and what was happening anyway at the time of Giving White Paper without the government’s involvement? I have had a stab at doing my own “Giving White Paper one year on”- going through all the announcements in the original White Paper to get a sense of which ones have resulted in action and whether anything obvious is missing from the update paper. So here goes:
What is new in the Update?
•£40m additional funding over the next 3 years for the Social Action Fund
•Erm… (Although to be scrupulously fair, this is supposed to be a progress report on previously announced actions so we probably should not expect a whole host of new announcements. And £40m is a welcome boon.)
Which White Paper Announcements have resulted in new action?
•1st £40m tranche of Social Action Fund allocated
•£10m Innovation in Giving fund– 1st tranche allocated, 2nd open at the moment
•ATM giving now possible at many high street banks
•Local Infrastructure Fund– A £30m fund administered by BIG, giving grants between £250-400K, although its focus is not entirely on giving. The first rounds of grant have been awarded.
Good but with caveats
•The Giving Summit– This did eventually happen, albeit much later than planned and not in the form it was originally envisaged. Some potentially interesting avenues for development have come out of it, however.
•National Citizen Service-Underway and being rolled out. The first lot of ‘volunteers’ have come out the other end. An NCS pilot for 30,000 young people is happening summer 2012. The scheme has been subject to some criticism (including from the Education Select Committee) about the cost per person and the suggestion that participants will be charged.
•A Philanthropy Committee for Honours– This is happening, but perhaps not in the way it seemed in original announcement- the philanthropy committee is basically a subcommittee of main committee. Dame Mary Marsh recently gave evidence to PASC which made it clear that role of Philanthropy committee is not to go out looking for philanthropists, but to make sure that any existing recommendations made on the basis of philanthropy are judged on the right grounds.
•‘Civic service’ – Measures to encourage volunteering by civil servants, with a target to give 30000 volunteering days a year from civil service, and links to appraisal system. A website has been set up to direct civil servants towards local volunteering opportunities, but there is no indication of where they are in terms of progress towards the 30,000 goal.
•Payroll Giving– There was originally supposed to be a major campaign to promote uptake, but that has morphed into an informal consultation on the structure of the system itself. There was also talk of improving the uptake of payroll giving within government, but there has not been any indication of progress on that.
•Community Organisers– It is announced in the White Paper update that “113 senior Community Organisers have been deployed”. However, this fails to mention that the actual target was to have trained 800 community organisers by March 2012, and this target has not been met. The Cabinet Office believes that it is still on for the target of training 5,000 Community organisers by the end of 2015.
•Challenge Prizes– A centre for Challenge Prizes has been established by NESTA, but this appears to be led by BIS. It is not clear whether any challenge prizes have actually been issued yet by the Cabinet Office as part of its plans to encourage social action.
What was announced in the White Paper that was already happening?
•New IHT incentive for legacy giving- The introduction of a new tax incentive for those leaving 10% or more of their estate to charity was announced in last year’s Budget, and has come into effect for deaths from April 2012.
•The Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme– Also announce in Budget 2011. The necessary piece of legislation (the Small Donations Bill) is currently awaiting its 2nd reading in the House of Commons
•Gifts of works of art and cultural objects to the nation– Announced in Budget 2011 (although already in motion before that). The limit on amount of money available in relief each year (£30m) means there is a bottleneck in the scheme, and some have also complained that the level of tax relief (30%) is not high enough to be a proper incentive.
•Community First Fund– £80m, including £50m Endowment Matched Funding, £30m (Neighbourhood Matched Fund) for community led projects and organisers etc. Basically a rebranding of the Grassroots Grants Programme started under Labour.
•Round to the pound initiatives- Allowing people to donate electronic “change” when paying by card (e.g. Pennies Foundation).
•Business Connectors– This is a Business in the Community initiative, with significant funding from the Big Lottery Fund (£4.8M)
•Every Business Commits– A BIS initiative. Since the White Paper, there has been the announcement of Trading For Good, a new digital platform developed by business for business that will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to showcase what they are doing around the five main challenge areas of Every Business Commits.
What was in the White Paper that is unclear or missing from the update?
•The One Day Challenge– Ministers were supposed to be giving one day a year of volunteering to charity. Nothing much has been said about this. Paul Flynn MP tabled a series of Parliamentary questions to Ministers last year to ascertain what they had done for their “one day challenge”, and noted that “not one Government Minister gave a full answer to the parliamentary written question on when they undertook their Big Society One Day Challenge and the nature and date of their volunteer work.”
•Citizen-led self-regulation– i.e. “TripAdvisor for volunteering”. Nothing appears to have happened with this idea, which is probably for the best as it always seemed one of the most flawed suggestions in the White Paper.
•Using government websites to support good causes– As of 23 May 2011, the government was supposed to be trialling an approach that would provide space on government websites to online donation platforms to use in order to promote charitable giving. Nothing seems to have come of this.
•Data on giving– The Giving White Paper committed to “exploring how government data can be most useful to the VCS across a range of government departments”. What is happening on this?
My conclusion from analysing this all again is that some progress has certainly been made, but there is plenty more to do. There are questions about the limits of the government’s ability to drive this agenda forward as it currently stands, however.
The areas where the most progress has been made are those where there is obvious funding allocated to promoting giving, and where the Cabinet Office is actually able to influence the relevant actors effectively. So the Social Action Fund and the Innovation in Giving fund have had a real and noticeable impact over the last year. Where things become less clear is when the responsibility to deliver falls largely on external organisations, and the government’s role is merely to “support” or “champion”. Obviously it is good that the government demonstrates that it is positive about social action and giving, but how much impact this championing has on initiatives that were already happening anyway is very hard to assess.
The other sticky areas are those where the Cabinet Office is required to influence other parts of government to change the way they act (e.g. in terms of payroll giving uptake or the One Day Challenge). The question here is the extent to which the Cabinet Office can actually exert this sort of influence. This has been a wider problem with the whole Big Society agenda: it often appears to call for a strong coordinating force at the heart of Government (PASC has repeatedly called for a “Big Society Minister”), but at the moment this is lacking because the Cabinet Office (which is supposed to have this coordinating role) is underpowered compared to other departments. As a key part of the Big Society agenda, giving will suffer if this ongoing problem of lack of coordination is not addressed because it will not be possible to instill the right attitudes and approaches across all parts of government.