Government urged to appoint a 'philanthropy commissioner'

The government is being urged to appoint a philanthropy commissioner and create a funding pot to run civil society infrastructure pilots in levelling up priority areas.

The Law Family Commission on Civil Society, a two-year initiative launched by Pro Bono Economics in December last year to examine how the potential of civil society can be unleashed in the UK, has highlighted five key areas for the government to address ahead of this month’s Autumn Spending Review. 

In a letter to Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the commission identified productivity, philanthropy, data, wellbeing and the sector’s relationship with government as priorities.

It recommends that the government create a funding pot to run between three and five civil society infrastructure pilots in levelling up priority areas.

It is also urging the Treasury to boost the sector’s effectiveness by setting up a national Civil Society Catapult Centre, building on a model used to support innovation used in business to help drive forward progress on issues such as improving skills and digital adoption in the sector.

Echoing proposals made by the Bennet Institute, the commission said the government should appoint a philanthropy commissioner to make the case for greater philanthropic giving in the UK and recommended a review of Gift Aid to reduce the estimated £380m of eligible payments charities miss out on each year.

On data, the commission has renewed its call for a social sector satellite account to be set up in the national accounts, alongside a National Social Sector Data Strategy. 

It also called on the Charity Commission to introduce digital filing of annual accounts in a machine-readable format.

In addition, wellbeing measurements should be integrated into the assessment criteria for all current and future levelling up funding, said the commission.

In its ambition to strengthen the relationship between government and the sector, it has recommended each government department employ a named civil servant responsible for social sector engagement.

The government is also being encouraged to invite the social sector to set up an advisory group to support the rollout of levelling up nationally.

Matt Whittaker, LFCCS commissioner and chief executive of Pro Bono Economics, said: “The Budget and Spending Review come at a pivotal time for the UK. The Chancellor faces many difficult decisions as he seeks to balance the investment needed to build a sustainable recovery from the Covid crisis with his determination to manage the public finances prudently.

“The UK’s social sector will have an instrumental role to play in supporting that balancing act, along with nearly every item on the government’s agenda. 

“The country needs a social sector which is firing on all cylinders. It is a vital part of our social fabric, a major employer and a significant source of fiscal benefits.

“The commission is urging the government to recognise this in the crucial decisions it is about to take.”

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