Today's Budget was a "pretty much a total washout" for charities and highlights the work the sector needs to do to reintegrate itself into the heart of government, voluntary sector figures have said.
In what is being seen as a quiet Budget for the voluntary sector, Philip Hammond, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, made virtually no mention of charities or social enterprises in his speech or in the documents released once he sat down.
The exceptions included £20m to support organisations working to tackle domestic violence and abuse, and a further £12m for women’s charities from the Tampon Tax Fund, which was announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement and distributes the VAT collected on women’s sanitary products to charitable organisations.
Hammond announced a further £2bn for social care over the next three years and a £300m fund to provide discretionary relief on business rates, from which charities might benefit.
But voluntary sector leaders have expressed disappointment at the absence of any significant measures that would benefit charities and voluntary organisations.
Jay Kennedy, director of policy at the training and publishing body the Directory of Social Change, said the Budget was "pretty much a total washout for charities" and it felt like the sector was not being heard.
He said this was despite the fact that the charity sector was "holding this country together at the seams".
He said: "Government seems determined to impose ever more financial and regulatory burdens on charities without much concern about the impact. Whether it’s the apprenticeship levy, the insurance premium tax, real or potential fees, and charges from agencies and regulators such as the Charity Commission, the costs and burdens are going up while the recognition is going down.
"Every charity pound spent on bureaucracy is one that can’t be spent on helping someone."
Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders body Acevo, said: "We’re a bit disappointed. When Theresa May spoke to the Charity Commission in January, she spoke about creating an environment in which charities and social enterprises could thrive. She also spoke about the importance of recognising, supporting and championing civil society to affect some of the great social challenges we all face.
"Unfortunately, although those words are encouraging, the Budget is almost entirely devoid of mentions of charities or civil society, which we find disappointing."
Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of the Charity Finance Group, said the Budget "highlights the big task that charities face in reintegrating ourselves into the heart of government".
She said: "The government’s increasingly narrow focus on physical infrastructure and business means that the government is unwittingly ignoring a key part of our economy and society.
"As a charity sector, we need to make sure the important contribution we make is understood by politicians and, in the rush to make Britain competitive in the post-Brexit world, we don’t forget the value of a stronger society."
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said the lack of references in the Budget to voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises was a concern.
"We’ve got used to seeing no references to social enterprise in the Budget," he said. "But to see no mention of social investment, of inclusive business or the shared society or of mutuals, and barely a mention of charities, is a worrying sign that the government might have completely lost sight of the value of the social economy."
'Not necessarily a bad thing'
But Karl Wilding, director of public policy and volunteering at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the lack of references to the sector in the Budget was not necessarily a bad thing.
He said his organisation had been concerned that charities would be negatively affected by getting caught up in arguments about subjects such as business rates.
"In our experience, no Chancellor ever goes out specifically to destroy bits of the voluntary sector or to harm charities," he said. "But what tends to happen is that on bigger changes – and business rates is the current example – you get caught up in that argument."
John Hemming, chair of the Charity Tax Group, said he hoped the government would consider providing greater support for the sector in the Autumn Budget.
He said the Treasury had confirmed that the £300m discretionary fund for business rate relief could cover charities, but he feared this would contribute further to the "postcode lottery" that exists for charities in this area.
Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, said the government’s spending cuts were going too far and hitting those with the least hardest.
Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said the extra £20m for services to support women affected by domestic violence was "desperately needed and warmly welcomed".