Budget reaction: Government ignoring voluntary sector, says shadow minister

Steve Reed says that, despite a promised voluntary sector strategy, the government has little to offer charities - plus more reaction

Steve Reed, the shadow minister for civil society
Steve Reed, the shadow minister for civil society

The lack of in today’s Budgetpolicies that would benefit charities shows the government is ignoring the voluntary sector, according to the shadow minister for civil society.

After the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget speech in parliament this afternoon, Steve Reed said that, despite announcing a civil society strategy last week, the government had little concrete to offer the charity sector.

"There was nothing from the Chancellor on the most pressing issues facing the sector today," said Reed.

"Nothing on how EU funding will be replaced after Brexit, nothing on falling funding from councils as their budgets are cut, nothing to boost volunteering, and nothing on the underfunding of the Charity Commission.

"This was the second Budget this year and the second to offer nothing to the charity sector. It didn’t even get a mention. Like the big society before it, Theresa May’s vision of a shared society is nothing more than a mirage."

Charity sector representative bodies also criticised the Budget for its failure to address of range of issues affecting charities across the UK.

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, said it was "disheartening" that there was little on building sustainable communities, despite the government’s focus on funding for housebuilding.

"For a government looking to the future it was disheartening to hear references only to business and physical infrastructure," she said. "This is backward-looking, because our future prosperity comes from having strong communities, which charities help to create."

A statement from the charity leaders body Acevo said the Budget was "tepid", although it said there were some welcome announcements on business rates, homelessness, the apprenticeship levy and the NHS.

"But they fall a long way short of addressing the strategic needs of civil society, particularly social care," the statement said.

"This was not a budget which reflected the recent statement by the Minister for Civil Society, Tracey Crouch, who asserted that the government values civil society and the vital role it plays."

Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the Budget showed the next few years would continue to present a "tough economic environment" for charities, especially considering lower than expected productivity and higher levels of demand on their services. He said the Budget had little to say about charities and he was "astonished" that social care had been ignored.

John Hemming, chair of the Charity Tax Group, welcomed changes to the Gift Aid donor benefit relevant value test and the fact that VAT registration thresholds did not reduce from the current £85,000.

But Hemming said that an extension of VAT refunds to Police Scotland "reinforces the fact that there is no technical obstacle to VAT refunds – the only considerations are political will and cost" and therefore highlighted the importance of creating a level VAT playing field for charities.

The community charities body Locality said the Chancellor forgot to "mention the small charities that work interdependently with the local private sector and play a vital economic role", and called for a clear strategy on how the government would "draw upon and strengthen the huge power that exists within our communities".

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said the Budget "tinkers around the edges" and was not ambitious enough.

John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the Budget "did nothing to set the heather ablaze" and there was "little to sing about" for Scotland.

Sleep-in care

There was also no announcement in the Budget on whether the government would fund an estimated £400m back-pay liability owed to sleep-in carers by social care charities

Jan Tregelles, chief executive of the learning disability charity Mencap, which is facing a bill of £20m over the issue, said: "This Budget, which claimed to be investing in Britain’s future and ‘cares for the vulnerable’, will leave many people with a learning disability, their families and care workers wondering if this is a government that really cares about them.

"The sleep-in funding crisis, caused by faulty government guidance on overnight shift payments, cannot be ignored any longer. A new enforcement process is no substitute for a funded, responsible solution.

"Government must urgently make clear its intention to provide critical financial support for providers that were simply delivering local authority-commissioned care services."

Rhidian Hughes, chief executive of the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group, said: "Government’s continued failure to fund social care has consequences. It means that unmet need is rising with devastating effects on people who rely on care services. It means that local services continue to erode and the workforce will not receive the required investment in training and skills."

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