Charity leaders have been urged to make their views and their beneficiaries’ experiences heard by politicians, with a year to go until the next general election.
Speaking at the Acevo Gathering of Social Leaders conference in London this morning, Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, told delegates that the tight nature of the polls gave charities a particular opportunity.
"Nobody really has a clue about the outcome of the election – I think that is quite helpful for charities because it says to me there is a lot to be gained in terms of securing manifesto commitments," he said.
"I think we should really be getting out there and telling people what we are doing; we should also be telling people what we are seeing, and then actually getting our beneficiaries to say what they are seeing."
Farmer said that social media had a key part to play for voluntary sector organisations.
Speaking during the same session, Liz Hutchins, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth who is campaigning vigorously against the lobbying act, told charities not to be put off campaigning despite the legislation, which received royal assent earlier this year.
Hutchins said: "It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the government wanted to limit criticism of some of its more unpopular policies ahead of the election."
Ben Page, chief executive of the research company Ipsos Mori, started the day by running through the issuess that would influence the election.
He said research showed the top four areas of concern were: the economy or the economic situation, a concern for 47 per cent of people; race and/or immigration, which was a worry for 33 per cent; unemployment, which bothered 31 per cent of people; and the NHS, which was a concern for 24 per cent.
Page highlighted the overwhelming importance of swing voters in marginal constituencies.
He said: "You can do various sorts of maths to show that only about a million people in a country of 64 million actually decide what happens."Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, and Lisa Nandy, his Labour shadow , are both due to address the conference today.