Kruger review risks becoming an attempt to reintroduce 'big society through the back door'

The Small Charities Coalition has warned a review into the role of the voluntary sector in the coronavirus pandemic response is in danger of being rushed and becoming an attempt to “bring back big society through the back door”.

Last month, the Prime Minister asked Danny Kruger MP to lead a review examining how the government could make the most of the voluntary sector in the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. 

In a letter to Kruger, signed by 280 SCC members and released today, the SCC said the review could be too narrow in its focus and there could be a lack of meaningful engagement between the review and the charity sector. 

And Rita Chadha, the chief executive of the SCC, told Third Sector said she was concerned the review was “too rushed” and “is politically motivated to bring back big society through the back door”. 

She said there was “no understanding of changing Britain and in particular commitment to equalities in the brief”. 

She also described the review as “a distraction technique to avoid dealing with the woeful lack of support for the sector by this government”. 

The letter suggests that the SCC had reached out to Kruger inviting him to a meeting of its members to hear their views and ideas in relation to the review first hand but that this offer had not been taken up.

The letter says that “the overriding concerns” for SCC members are that the review “is being completed at extraordinary speed and fails to allow for meaningful and purposeful engagement” that it has “a limited brief and does not reflect the breadth of experiences of civil society” particularly around inequalities in relation to race, disability, LGBT experiences, gender equality and income inequality. 

Members’ concerns also include the lack of “recognition of the need to engage with small charities specifically” many of which work at the hyper-local level, the letter says. 

The letter also sets out members’ thoughts and suggestions around a number of areas identified as key subjects for the review in the Prime Minister’s letter asking Kruger to conduct the review, which Kruger shared on social media. 

These include recommendations around small charities that their interactions with public services, local infrastructure, unemployment, procurement, philanthropy, social investment, business, faith groups, young people, data and technology. 

It said it was also in agreement with a previous letter sent by the umbrella bodies involved in the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign.

The letter concludes: “The points mentioned here are a brief insight to our collective thinking and we would like to provide an open offer for you to come and present the findings of the review at a future online meeting of the Small Charities Coalition members.

“We hope the review is the beginning of a new discussion with government on the recognition, respect and reward that small charities need in order to help us all meet our collective desire to ‘level up’ and sustain generosity, public spirit and neighbourliness.”

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