With the results from Election 2015 now almost all in, a much clearer picture than expected has emerged. Although polls and projections earlier in the week found it difficult to split Labour and the Conservatives, the electorate’s verdict was much more decisive. The Conservative Party has emerged as the largest party, and as we write looks likely to have enough MPs to form a majority. That means that charities should be closely studying their manifesto to get a better idea of what the next few years have in store. David Cameron is set to continue as Prime Minister, and it looks as though he will now be able to govern alone without the involvement of other parties.
Elsewhere, as expected, the SNP have emerged as the dominant force in Scottish politics, with both Labour and the Liberal Democrats seeing some of their safest seats fall to Nicola Sturgeon’s party. For Nick Clegg’s party, this collapse was replicated across the rest of the UK, and the Lib Dems have been reduced to just a handful of MPs. UKIP have seen an increase in their share of the vote, but have returned just one MP – Douglas Carswell – to Westminster, with a similar story for the Green Party who saw Caroline Lucas retain her Brighton seat.
Turning to the charity sector, both Civil Society Minister Rob Wilson and Shadow Civil Society Minister Lisa Nandy have held onto their seats – although whether they will continue in those positions remains unknown at the present time.
For the past month we – and pretty much all commentators – had assumed that the country would be looking at another coalition government, which would have meant manifestos being merged together to create an agreement. This no longer needs be the case, and as a result charities can expect to see the Conservative’s manifesto implemented.
What does this mean for the sector?
One of the more notable aspects of David Cameron’s manifesto was the re-emergence of the Big Society, which had fallen to the wayside somewhat during the second half of the last Parliament. Indeed, Cameron’s comments shortly his re-election suggest that we can expect a renewed focus on social welfare issues as part of a return to ‘one nation Conservatism.’ During the campaign the Conservative’s announced plans for a revolution in workplace volunteering, with public sector staff and those working at large companies expected to be given up to three days paid leave a year to be used for volunteering.
There are also plans for the extension of the National Citizen Service, one of the Conservative’s flagship programmes for the sector, which aims to get more young people involved in social action. Additionally, there is support for the #iwill campaign, which is seeking to double the amount of young people engaged in social action by the end of the decade. It’s essential that we get future generations to grow up with a culture of giving and, as CAF’s Growing Giving Inquiry established, the best way to do this is by providing opportunities for engagement at an early age.
The Conservative manifesto also sees an important role for charities in the delivery of public services, with a particular focus on the health sector and the further development of the Work Programme. Although there have been concerns raised by charities about the bidding process for contrasts distributed through the Work Programme, the further integration of charities in public service delivery could offer an opportunity for charities to use their expertise to make a positive different to people’s lives. The manifesto also embraces new social models such as payment-by-results and social impact bonds. Of course, we’ll have to look at the details as they emerge in the next few weeks.
Turning overseas, the Conservative manifesto acknowledges the important role that the UK plays in helping those in need. The cross-party support for the UK’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GNI on international aid meant that it was always likely to be retained, and we can expect that to remain the case. This will be boosted by a doubling of the Aid Match scheme which matches donations to charities, and the desire to get young people involved in volunteering will be aided further by a planned trebling of the International Citizen Service, which gives young Britons the chance to volunteer overseas.
The Queen’s Speech – which can be expected before the end of May – will give a clearer understanding of where the new Government’s priorities lie, and whether any legislation affecting the sector will be enacted. In addition, changes can be expected to be made in the form of the Draft Protection of Charities Bill, which will presumably come before Parliament in the coming months.
It’s still early days, and we’ll be bringing more reaction and deeper analysis as more becomes clear. We know that many charity leaders and staff remain sceptical of the relationship between the sector and government, and early dialogue is needed to ensure that the sector is given both the support and independence it needs to continue making such a vital contribution to society. In the next few weeks we’ll be asking charity workers what they think about the new government and how it will impact upon their organisation. In the meantime, let us know what you think on twitter @cafonline or at firstname.lastname@example.org