Most fringe events at political party conferences take place in soulless rooms in the deepest depths of enormous exhibition centres, with bad soundonly livened up by supplies of warm, bad wine and canapés.
Not so CAF’s fringe event at Labour Party Conference 2012.We are under the canvas of the Unite the Union marquee, which is pitched outside Manchester Central but inside the secure zone, in the open air away from the hustle and bustle of the main conference.
Unite are the largest trade union in the UK, with over 1.5 million members, and whilst not all of them would fit in their marquee, it’s significantly bigger than the average fringe venue and on the night party members joined with charity representatives and politicians joined us to ask: Boomers then Bust: Is giving a Generation Game?
On the panel were:
Toby Helm – Political Editor, The Observer
Gareth Thomas MP – Shadow Minister for Civil Society and MP for Harrow West
Lisa Nandy MP – MP for Wigan
Professor Sarah Smith – University of Bristol
Dr John Low – Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation
Toby Helm kicked off our debate by introducing the theme for the night and all of the speakers. He then invited CAF Chief Executive John Low to add his thoughts. John told the fringe that the over 75s are giving ten times more today to charity than the under 30s and we need to find ways to engage the younger generations with charities to avoid a deficit in the future.
Professor Sarah Smith, who wrote the research report that we have taken to the party conferences added that the donor population is aging more quickly than the general population and that it is important to think about what shapes peoples attitudes to giving to understand generational differences.
MP for Wigan and former Policy Adviser for the Children’s Society Lisa Nandy MP told the panel that she thought charitable giving was important as it allowed charities the chance to give a voice to those that are not able to be heard. She went on to say that young people need a bigger stake in society so they can be involved in decisions that affect their future.
Our final panelist, Gareth Thomas MP welcomed the research, especially reforming Gift Aid, payroll giving and Living Legacies. He was honest about the difficult funding decisions ahead for governments and the charity sector and encouraged people to to look to different funding methods such as social investment.
The panel summed up by telling the audience they were optimistic for the future of the sector, despite some of the research findings. Lisa Nandy added that the sector has been able to innovate in the past and will do so again, while John Low said he had seen first hand how charities can change peoples lives for the better when they work at their best.
Finally, Gareth Thomas, as Shadow Minister for Civil Society, confirmed that Labour will go into the next election with ideas and plans for the sector within their manifesto and that several of the recommendations in the research report would be considered as part of the party’s policy review.
There were questions from the floor from Fiona McTaggart MP and others, who discussed how to inspire young people, make giving more fun and the difficulty charities have raising funds from different groups in society.
We’d like to extend our thanks to all our panelists for a lively debate.Watch this space for another update from Birmingham, where we’ll be seeing what Conservatives have to say about whether giving is a Generation Game.