We conducted a survey of charities to find out more about their attitudes towards politics and the election campaign. As has been established elsewhere, there is a great deal of scepticism from charities about government support for the sector, and two-thirds of respondents agreed that most politicians do not understand how important charities are in Britain today.
Similarly there appears to be a failing by political parties to adequately explain their policies for the sector to charities. Only 2% of respondents agreed that parties are communicating their policies affecting charities and voluntary groups effectively, with a staggering 86% of charities disagreeing. With the election now less than a month away all parties face a real struggle to make sure that their plans for the sector are heard, and it is hoped that manifestos are used to clearly demonstrate each party’s vision for the future of the sector.
As to which party is having the most success in communicating their plans, it’s a pretty bleak picture across the board. The Conservatives can claim a slight victory in being the party that had made their policies most understood within the sector but, even with the added media profile that comes with their status as the major governing party, less than a third of respondents reported that they understood David Cameron’s policies for the sector.
Of course, the wider question is whether whichever party ends up in power actually makes any difference to the sector, and to that the answer appears to be a qualified ‘yes.’ Three-fifths of charities disagree that it makes no difference to the sector which political party is in power, although fewer see the composition of the next government having a direct impact on their own organisation.
Finally, with this the first election carried out since the implementation of the Lobbying Act a number of concerns have been voiced about the impact it might have on the ability of charities to campaign. A slight disclaimer needs to be given, as we can’t say for certain that all of the organisations who responded to our survey typically campaign, but the early evidence seems promising, with the vast majority (81%) of charities reporting that it is ‘business as usual.’ We hope that charities continue speaking up in the next few weeks and beyond.
A couple of weeks ago we hosted the Social Leaders Debate in partnership with ACEVO precisely to give parties a better chance to communicate their policies and aims to representatives from the voluntary sector. Although that event was a success (and you can watch it in full here), it’s clear that more work needs to be done to give charities a better understanding of what parties are proposing.
Over the next few days we’ll see parties announce the plans that they want to implement if elected on May 7th – we’ll be bringing you the highlights and analysis for what they might mean for the voluntary sector as they happen. Want to let us know what you think? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or tell us on twitter @cafonline.