Charities will have more space to campaign for social change this year now that there is more certainty over Brexit, according to a National Council for Voluntary Organisations report published today.
The Road Ahead 2020, the NCVO’s annual analysis of the landscape for charities over the next 12 months, says that having a stable majority government and a date for th UK’s departure from the EU means more attention can be given to domestic issues.
But it warns that progress might still be slow as the government negotiates the implications of leaving and pressure on funding is likely to continue.
“After a very long time there is a chance for attention to turn away from Brexit and focus on domestic issues,” the report says.
“The political paralysis we have witnessed for the past few years could finally make way for some other issues that are in urgent need of being properly addressed, such as education and local government, a green industrial revolution, and health and social care."
But it also warns that Brexit is a long-term process, not a one-off event, and will continue to have a massive social and political impact for some time.
“Even after we exit, civil service capacity will have to be mainly dedicated to dealing with the implications of us no longer being part of the EU,” it says.
“Charities may therefore find greater political space to push forward their campaigns, but need to be mindful that continued Brexit implementation means things may ultimately not happen – or are unlikely to happen at pace.”
The report warns that an uncertain economic environment is likely to mean continued demand for charities’ services and higher staff costs as the living wage goes up.
“While government spending may increase it’s unlikely to feel like the taps have suddenly been turned on,” the report says.
“Pressure on voluntary sector funding and support looks set to continue. Charities with income from government will continue to find it challenging to deliver high-quality services with less money to do so.”
It says the full three-year spending review, due later this year, and the budget in March “will determine whether austerity is truly over or just paused”.
The report says that decentralised movements such as Extinction Rebellion could provide a model for securing support and engagement from younger people, whom it describes as “cause-led and sector agnostic”, more interested in the goal of an initiative than in who runs it.
To appeal to such supporters, the report suggests, charities could try “focusing on participation and facilitation rather than control and management” and “developing relationships with people to understand what makes them tick and how they might want to contribute, rather than expecting them to fit into existing roles”, as well as “supporting and amplifying the efforts of individuals and networks”.
Sarah Vibert, director of public policy and volunteering at the NCVO, said: “While we must not underestimate the continued challenges Brexit and the economy will pose for charities over the next 12 months, I am tentatively hopeful we will see the beginnings of a different operating environment this year.
“The government is keen to move on from Brexit monopolising public debate, and this gives the sector an opportunity to push other issues higher up the agenda.
"We also need to hold the government to account for the spending promises of the election and push for this to translate into more money at community level."