Charities have proven vital to community-led responses
Charities should be “key influencers” in decisions on policy and legislation, delegates at the Labour Party Conference have heard.
The call was made by Barbara Keeley, Labour shadow charities minister, who said that the sector’s response to the pandemic proved how vital it was in creating community solutions in either the short or long term.
Now with the cost-of-living crisis, charities should be placed at the forefront of the government’s response, she said.
“I want to make the point strongly at this difficult time that the insights and experience [of] organisations and groups which work in the community and advocate for people in the greatest need are incredibly valuable,” she said. “We shouldn’t lose sight of that.”
“This knowledge and experience mean that civil society organisations should be key influencers in decisions about policy and legislation. In the last decade, I don’t think you’ve been the key influencers that you should have been because you haven’t been allowed to be.”
“If we take just one example, debt-advice charities, food banks and food hubs are the frontline of people’s experience of the cost-of-living crisis. It’s quite clear that our government and Treasury should be benefiting from their insights.” She continued: “We now have a government headed by a prime minister and a chancellor who see the world very differently. [Last] week has really changed things so it’s even more important to make sure that the voice of those on the lowest incomes or those with the greatest social needs is heard.
“Charities must have their priorities heard because in communicating the messages to those with the power to change things, they’re amplifying the voices of their beneficiaries and that’s very valuable. I do believe that a strong relationship between civil society and politicians is more critical now than ever before. As tough as it is right now, it’s more critical.”
Keeley was speaking at a fringe event organised by the Fabian Society and the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF).
Neil Heslop, chief executive officer of CAF, said more funding for charities was vital if they are to continue their work.
We saw in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic the chancellor’s intervention with a package of £750m for the charity sector. There’s a recognition that that money was put to good use the National Audit Office felt in terms of the effectiveness with which that money was deployed,” he said.
“It translated into significant impact but I believe that it will be necessary for the chancellor to bring forward some direct support and awareness to that in the next few months.”