Government help to come next year

The Government has pledged to release an action plan "early in the new year" setting out how it will support the sector through the recession.

The commitment was made after yesterday's meeting between third sector minister Kevin Brennan and representatives of 25 sector bodies, including the NCVO, Acevo and the Charities Aid Foundation.

There was no immediate response to the 16 proposals put forward by chief executives body Acevo before the summit, including a new £500m scheme to help charities stay solvent (Third Sector, 20 November, page 1).

Louis High, head of campaigns and communications at the NCVO, said the Office of the Third Sector had been in "listening mode". He said the sector representatives had urged the Government not to pass legislation that would harm charities, such as requiring them to buy new licences to play recorded music (Third Sector Online, 10 November).

He said the meeting had also discussed reforming Gift Aid, setting up a social investment bank and extending the 10-year deadline for balancing the books in pension schemes. Further policy suggestions would be researched over the next few months, with the results being passed to the OTS, said High.

The meeting also discussed ways  the sector could help itself, such as developing toolkits, increasing collaboration, reducing overheads with IT and using mediation to minimise the fallout of redundancies.

High said sector organisations would also look at ways of producing reliable evidence of the effects of the recession. "There has been lots of anecdotal research over the past few months, but no evidence base," he said.

Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, described the meeting as constructive. "But the proof of the pudding is in the eating," he said. "The action plan needs to be bold and decisive if we are to enable the sector to support the most vulnerable in society through recession."

Brennan said: "It is clear that the Government can also play an important role to support the sector. We have discussed some very constructive and realistic proposals today, which I will consider carefully."

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