As the election moves ever closer we’re now at the start of ‘Manifesto Week,’ which will see each party put forward the plans that they want to see enacted if they emerge victorious at the ballot box. We’ll be digging into each manifesto as it is announced, exploring what each party is planning for the future of the voluntary sector.
We start with Labour, with Ed Miliband launching their manifesto in Manchester earlier today.
Firstly, Miliband re-affirms his party’s commitment to repealing the Lobbying Act, which will be music to the ears of many charities. This is the first election since the introduction of the legislation meaning that ascertaining the impact it is having on charities is difficult, but we know that many charities fear it will restrict their ability to speak up on behalf of their beneficiaries. This commitment will be widely welcomed across the sector.
The manifesto also pledges to increase young people’s volunteering and social action, including through supporting Step up to Serve’s #iwill campaign. Getting more young people involved in social action is essential if they are to grow up with a personal commitment to giving, and many young people are determined to use their time and money to support causes that they care about. We await the detail of this policy with interest, but with both young people and teachers wanting to use classrooms as a way for young people to learn more about charities we hope that political parties acknowledge the importance of schools in growing giving for the future.
Labour also state their support for the development of the social economy, recognising the ways in which charities, mutuals, co-ops and social enterprises are using their models to devolve power to individuals and communities whilst simultaneously increasing social value. Labour also plan for greater involvement for charities in providing families with access to childcare, promoted through a new National Primary Childcare Service. Whilst this is of course welcome, it is perhaps surprising that little more is said about the role of charities in providing public services.
There are a couple of other measures with relevance for some of the sector, including a commitment to retaining spending 0.7% of GDP on international aid, but it’s fair to say that the 86-page document certainly does not overstate the contribution that charities and volunteers make to modern Britain.
Commenting on the measures outlined in Labour’s manifesto, John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said:
“This manifesto includes some good measures to encourage young people to volunteer and to encourage investment in charities, particularly those working in areas like childcare.
“Repealing the Lobbying Act will certainly remove unnecessary restraints and send a positive message to other countries around the world, which look to Britain as a beacon of free speech and a model for civil society.
“We still need a compelling and coherent vision for the role of charities in our society. This has so far, sadly been lacking from all parties.”
We’ll have highlights from the Conservative Party’s manifesto once David Cameron has formally launched it tomorrow.