The UK has the worst operating environment for charities in western and northern Europe, according to a global study of the voluntary sectors in a range of countries.
The report, the Global Philanthropy Environment Index, published yesterday by Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, gives the UK an average score of 4.18 out of five, compared with the regional average for 12 countries in northern and western Europe of 4.53.
The research is based on 79 countries in 11 geographical areas. Countries are given a score out of five in five areas covering the legal, cultural and political environment for charities.
The political environment in the UK is the worst factor in the country’s relatively low average score, the report says – it is rated at 3.75 compared with the next lowest score, that of the Republic of Ireland, with four.
The UK also has the joint-lowest score in western and northern Europe for "cross-border flows", or the ease with which donations cross national borders. Its score of four out of five is the same as Denmark, France and Germany, the report says.
The UK has the joint third-lowest "ease of operating" score with 4.67, the report says, which outperforms only Austria and France and is equal to Germany and the Republic of Ireland.
The report scores the UK at 4.5 for its "socio-cultural environment" – a mid-ranking score for the region, according to the report – and at four for its tax incentives, which are equal to those offered by Austria, Denmark, Finland and Norway and better only than Sweden.
But western and northern Europe has one of the best regional environments for charities compared with the rest of the world, the report says, scoring well above the global average of 3.41 out of five.
Belarus and Qatar come out as the worst of the 79 countries studied, with average scores of between two and 2.49 out of five.
Professor Una Osili, the report’s author, said that although the UK’s score was still relatively high compared with other countries around the world, factors such as Brexit, the shift from government grants to contracts for charities and falling trust in the sector meant the UK was outperformed by other European countries.
But she said the UK still had a "strong culture and commitment to philanthropy" that was relatively large in comparison to many other countries.
Osili told Third Sector: "The country report mentioned the importance of providing adequate resources for the Charity Commission and strengthening its role as an adviser and enabler for the charitable sector, as well as the regulatory oversight.
"Engaging charitable organisations in discussion regarding proposed legislation can reduce the risk of unintended consequences."