Sector leaders call for action to protect charities in recession

Acevo has called on the Government to turn its 'warm words' for the voluntary sector into action as it prepares for Monday's recession summit.

The chief executives body has formulated 16 ambitious proposals, including reform of Gift Aid and a new ring-fenced local third sector fund, to put to third sector minister Kevin Brennan.

"We should be thinking big," said Ralph Michell, policy advocate at Acevo. "The list is intended to kickstart debate so we go into the meeting on the back of lively discussion.

"It is important that the Government follows up its warm words with action."

Sector leaders have said they regard the recession as a test of ministers' commitment to the sector and want them to address charities' needs as urgently as those of banks and small businesses.

A small group of senior sector figures will attend the summit, which will be chaired by Brennan and Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, at the umbrella body's London offices.

John Low, chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, who will also attend the summit, planned to take a more cautious approach.

"The politics at the moment are very tricky," he said. "I'm not expecting a single outcome. It would be good if some kind of strategic initiative came out of it, but it depends on the ability and appetite of the people there to do something."

Low said some trustees were prematurely winding up charities because of fears over personal liability and needed help in making decisions.

A spokesman for the NCVO said: "We won't be commenting about our summit before it happens."

A spokesman for the Office of the Third Sector said: "The Government has consistently backed up its warm words with real support. This means the sector is already better placed than ever to face economic uncertainty."

THE WISH LIST

Acevo's ideas for the third sector summit include:

£500m: A new government fund to help charities stay solvent

Gift Aid reform: Introduction of a new accounts-based system

£260m: for Grassroots Grants Double the current £130m

Local third sector fund: Money for councils that prioritise the third sector

£250m: For a new social investment bank, funded from unclaimed assets

Icelandic bank deposit guarantee: To protect up to £200m of sector funds.

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