Latest NAVCA news and updates

Apr 17 2014

NAVCA publishes Health case studies report

NAVCA has published a new report containing case studies to accompany the three research briefings published last month that explore local charities and voluntary organisations attitudes and experiences of local health organisations. The case studies illustrate NAVCA members work to influence Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and the nature of their relationship with local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local Healthwatch.

The report is the product of work between NAVCA and 12 of its members between October 2013 and March 2014. The case studies provide additional intelligence, regarding infrastructure organisations’ involvement in the emerging local health structures. The case studies aim to show examples of what is working well, what challenges there are, and how sector involvement differs around the country.

Read the case study report (takes you to a page with the case study report and the three research briefings).

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Apr 08 2014

Early bird for NCVO’s Evolve 2014 closes on 11 April

Early bird booking for NCVO’s Evolve 2014 closes on 11 April.

Taking place on Monday 16 June at The Brewery, London, Evolve 2014 brings over 1,000 voluntary sector professionals together to build a stronger future. 

Alongside sixteen 90 minute workshops covering a range of topics, keynote speaker highlights include:

  • Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund
  • Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society
  • Lisa Nandy, Shadow Minister for Civil Society
  • Martyn Lewis CBE, Chair, NCVO

NAVCA is leading an afternoon workshop at the event:

The prospects for local infrastructure: straws in the wind?

These are challenging times for many in the local voluntary and community sector, not least the infrastructure bodies that support it. The environment in which infrastructure operates is changing: localism has created a host of local partners with which to engage; the nature of national investment is changing; and local authority budget cuts are hitting many. This, and the opportunity presented by the Transforming Local Infrastructure (TLI) programme, has led many infrastructure bodies to re-examine their future. This workshop will look at some of the latest thinking on how local infrastructure support is rising to the challenge and consider the wider lessons. NAVCA will present the latest findings from its analysis of TLI and you will hear from some key infrastructure organisations that are rethinking how they meet the needs of civil society, local voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises. 

Prices for Evolve 2014 start from £179.55.Book before 11 April to receive a 10% discount off your booking. Multiple booking discounts are also available.

For more information visit the NCVO website or phone NCVO Events on 0207 520 3153.

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Mar 31 2014

New Commission to look at ways to support voluntary and community action

NAVCA has launched an independent Commission to look at the future of local infrastructure. This evidence-based inquiry will examine existing local voluntary and community infrastructure and the challenges it faces. Chaired by Sara Llewellin, Chief Executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust, it will meet for the first time on Monday 31 March with a remit to come up with practical ways to secure high quality support for local voluntary and community action throughout England.

The Commission will gather evidence from current infrastructure providers, charities and community groups, public sector bodies, the private sector, academics and other interested parties. A number of evidence-gathering sessions will be held across England and will report back in the Autumn.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said:

“Whilst NAVCA has strong views on the matter, this commission is independent. Members are drawn from a wide range of organisations and bring vast experience and many different perspectives. I look forward to hearing creative and radical practical solutions to support local voluntary and community action throughout England which focus on the help and support that people and communities need.”

Sara Llewellin, Chair of the Commission said:

“I welcome the opportunity to look afresh at the changing development needs of our sector, and would encourage people to contribute evidence and ideas to help us find the best solutions to meeting these needs. A Strong civil society strengthens democracy, and we need to be aware of the new opportunities which will arise from this changing environment, at the same time as being aware of the threats.”

 Members of the Commission on the Future of Local Infrastructure:

  • Sara Llewellin (Chair), Chief Executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust
  • Amanda Ariss, Chief Executive, Equality and Diversity Forum
  • Becky Shaw, Chief Executive, East Sussex County Council
  • Bharti Patel-Smith, Director of Governance & Involvement, Shropshire CCG
  • Councillor Gwilym Butler, Leisure, Libraries and Culture Portfolio Holder, Shropshire Council
  • David Brindle, Public Services Editor, Guardian
  • Derry Nugent, Head of Philanthropy Services
  • Dharmendra Kanani, England Director, Big Lottery Fund
  • Elizabeth Balgobin, V4CE Representative
  • Fiona White, Chief Executive, Community Lincs
  • Janice Banks, Chief Executive, ACRE
  • Justin Davis Smith, Executive Director of Volunteering,  NCVO
  • Lisa Cunningham, Programme Director, Business Connectors, Business in the Community
  • Melanie Mills, Chief Executive, Social Enterprise West Midlands          
  • Paddy Tipping, John Dwyer, Martyn Underhill, Police & Crime Commissioners
  • Richard Caulfield, Chief Executive, VSNW
  • Rob Macmillan, Research Fellow, Third Sector Research Centre
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Mar 24 2014

NAVCA publishes health survey findings

NAVCA has published three research briefings that explore local charities and voluntary organisations attitudes and experiences of local health organisations. The three reports explore the extent to which they feel able to influence Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA) and the nature of their relationship with local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and local Healthwatch. The reports draw on the findings of a NAVCA survey of its members and the wider voluntary and community sector. The survey received 122 responses, from organisations working with a range of beneficiaries, incomes and geographical areas.

Key findings from the research are:

1.     JSNAs

There is a mixed picture in terms of voluntary organisations feel their views and those of their beneficiaries influenced and impacted upon local priorities. Some local relationships are in their early stages of development, although others report feeling excluded from the development of JSNA or that involvement has been largely symbolic and so has little impact.

2.     Healthwatch

Overall the view is positive. The majority of respondents stated that they are engaged at least to some extent with Healthwatch and a significant proportion feel the views of their beneficiaries are represented.

3.     CCGs

Results suggest that there is considerable variation between CCGs, even within single counties. Respondents repeatedly stressed that work with CCGs is in its early days and were, on the whole, positive about developments. However, responses highlight that there remains a significant proportion of organisations that have not been able to engage with CCGs, and which feel their beneficiaries’ needs and views are not taken into account.

Neil Cleeveley, NAVCA’s Director of Policy and Research, said;

“Whilst the survey had a limited number of responses, the results chime with what we hear from our members. Although relationships are in their early days, it is clear that local Healthwatch have engaged successfully with the local voluntary organisations. There is, however, much more to be done to ensure that local communities have a real say in the development of JSNAs and the planning of local services that flow from them.”

“The variation of voluntary sector engagement with CCGs is a concern, as it is key to involving local communities in local services. This is why NAVCA has been involved in this work through projects such as ‘Building Health partnerships’ and why it is so important to highlight the good practice identified by this survey.”

Download the reports

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Mar 19 2014

NAVCA’s response to the Budget

In response to George Osborne’s budget Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said;

“Rather than new pound coins, the bigger issue is the lack of current pound coins in people’s pocket - cuts are hurting communities. And local voluntary organisations are picking up the pieces, helping communities to keep local services like libraries and youth clubs running and providing food banks. In this sense the Big Society is being delivered by stealth.”

“I wanted to hear how they will help charities to support the hardest hit communities. I wanted to hear plans to support charities at a very local level to build resilience in communities.”

On the welfare cap

“I’m disappointed that plans for a welfare cap are being pursued. It will have perverse effects leading to people in most need being left without support. We will continue to support NCVO’s campaign against a welfare cap.”

Read a summary of the budget on the BBC website

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Mar 12 2014

Government publish progress update on work with charities

The Government has published a progress update on work ‘making it easier for civil society to work with the state’. The report covers action the Office for Civil Society is taking to support the growth and success of charities, community groups and social enterprises.

NAVCA and NAVCA members get several mentions reflecting our work on Social Value, supporting consortia, working with the new health structures, Police and Crime Commissioners and Transforming Local Infrastructure. In Nick Hurd’s foreword to the document he also admits that “there remain some very big challenges, not least in how we engage smaller organisations.”

Neil Cleeveley, Director of Policy and Research at NAVCA, said

“This progress update and the number of initiatives being reported show that it is something the Government is taking seriously. It is good to see the role of NAVCA members recognised and the work of Nova Wakefield District and Wolverhampton VSC highlighted.”

We’re also pleased to see the Government recognising that engaging smaller organisations is one of their biggest challenges. Historically, local authorities have been a major source of support for smaller charities and community groups. Research from the NCVO Almanac suggests local government cuts will result in £1bn less funding for the local voluntary sector. Addressing this issue would be the most effective way to help smaller voluntary organisations.”

Read the update report (takes you to the .Gov website)

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Mar 07 2014

NAVCA response to Healthwatch strategy consultation

NAVCA has responded to Healthwatch England’s strategic direction consultation. NAVCA’s response emphasises the role that local charities and community groups can play in supporting Healthwatch England and that existing local infrastructure charities can help the Healthwatch network to develop the potential of the network.

NAVCA’s response says that:

1)      Local charities and community groups will often be aware of emerging issues before they are widely recognised.

2)      NAVCA members have played a pivotal role in establishing many local Healthwatch organisations and this close relationship should be maintained.

3)      Healthwatch England and local Healthwatch organisations should put pressure on Health and Wellbeing boards to increase local voluntary sector representation.

NAVCA also challenges the use of ‘consumer’ as it is an alien term to many people in relation to health.

Read the consultation response

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Mar 04 2014

Joe Irvin asks House of Commons Committee to extend social value

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, yesterday called for the Social Value Act to apply to all public sector procurement processes not just those above the European threshold. He was giving evidence on public service reform to the Public Administration Select Committee at an evidence session held in Sheffield. Joe Irvin provided evidence about ways to involve smaller charities in service delivery and the role social value can play.

The evidence session was the third session of the Committee’s Citizens and Public Services Inquiry, scrutinizing Government plans for public service reform. The committee’s focus was on the opportunities for local communities to get involved in public service design and delivery and the extent to which the Government has successfully devolved power to local communities. As well as Joe Irvin, the Committee heard from Sue White, Chief Executive, Sheffield Voluntary Action, Joe Fowler, Director of Commissioning, Sheffield City Council and Sharon Squires, Director, Sheffield First.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, told the committee:

“Social value is about changing minds rather than just ticking boxes. The Social Value Act is about getting best value for taxpayers. It also recognises the hidden value smaller charities can give to their communities. I hope it is extended to all contracts, as in Liverpool, rather than just those over the European threshold. The threshold is being raised to 500,000 euros which means that it will exclude any contracts that smaller charities can go for.”

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Feb 19 2014

NAVCA’s quarterly survey suggests the recovery isn’t here yet

Local voluntary action is yet to feel any benefit from the recent growth in the according to NAVCA’s latest quarterly members’ survey, the 7th in the series. The survey shows that NAVCA members, local infrastructure charities, remain firmly pessimistic about their own financial prospects and those of their local sector over the coming 12 months. The survey uses a representative sample panel of NAVCA members to track trends in local voluntary action. The latest survey took place in January. Surveys have been run every three months since July 2012.

The survey shows that two thirds of NAVCA members say that there financial situation will worsen over the next year. Only 4% say that it will get better. Worryingly 76% of respondents to the survey feel that the financial situation will worsen for their local voluntary sector in the coming year. The tough financial position is also highlighted by the survey’s funding that 72% of NAVCA’s survey panel are reducing reserves and, for the first time, no-one is planning to increase reserves. 

A positive finding is that despite these difficulties, overall relationships with key local bodies are improving. The quarterly surveys have consistently shown more NAVCA members feel relationships are improving with local health bodies (40% in the latest survey) rather than getting worse (16%). Likewise, 28% say relationships with local police authorities are improving and only 4% say they are getting worse. It is a more mixed picture with local authority relationships, where the same number (24%) say the relationship has got worse and the relationship has improved.

The survey indicates that NAVCA members are responding to the difficult financial situation by working closer with other infrastructure providers: 60% expect greater collaboration. They are also working to find new alternative sources of income. The survey shows that earning income is the third biggest issue facing members. The other big issues NAVCA members say they face are workload (which has been the top response in every survey) and local government funding.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA said,

“These findings show that there is no let up to the financial pressures that local charities, including NAVCA members, are facing. Whatever economic upturn there is does not seem to be helping local voluntary action. As local charities and community groups support many of the most deprived communities and individuals an upturn in their fortunes would be a major boost to the well-being of this country.”

“As always I am impressed by the way NAVCA members respond when dealt a difficult hand. This survey shows they are looking at improving collaboration and looking to increase earned income. I do worry however that this resilience of NAVCA members can be taken for granted by local funders who may try to avoid their responsibility to ensure that local infrastructure is adequately supported.”

Read the survey report

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Feb 11 2014

NAVCA welcomes new powers for Charity Commission but calls for review

NAVCA has responded to the Office for Civil Societies consultation on extending the Charity Commission’s powers to tackle abuse in charities. NAVCA welcomes the new powers as they acknowledge they will fill gaps that currently exist in the commission’s powers. However, NAVCA believes that charities need a strong but supportive regulator and therefore call for a review in a few years’ time. This review would look at the Charity Commission’s powers and ensure any new powers are being used proportionately and effectively.

The new powers for the Charity Commission include:

  • Strengthening the Charity Commission’s ability to disqualify individuals from being charity trustees.
  • Allowing the commission to issue official warnings to charities.
  • Giving the commission the ability to direct a charity to wind up.

NAVCA recognises the risk to individual charities and to the reputation of charities as a whole if people who have demonstrably proven that they are unsuitable are allowed to continue to run charities. NAVCA therefore understands how the proposed powers are logical solutions to particular issues but expect the overall impact to charities to be small. NAVCA believes there is a potential for a disproportionate impact should it create a culture of fear or over-cautious compliance. To deal with this risk, NAVCA want a review of these Charity Commission powers in a few years’ time to ensure that the impact of any new powers are as intended.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said

“We’ve consistently said that public trust is vital for charities and effective regulation is required to maintain this trust. Therefore, we support the new proposed powers. However, we want to make sure they are used properly and so our response recommends reviewing this in a few years’ time.”

“Recent criticism of the Charity Commission may encourage them to take a tougher approach to regulation, when what charities need is a firm but supportive regulator. Bad practice must be eliminated but the regulator should also show a little understanding of charities.”

Read NAVCA’s response

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Feb 06 2014

Government backs down on key Judicial Review proposal

The Ministry of Justice has published the Government’s response to the ‘Judicial review: proposals for further reform’ consultation, which ran from September to November last year. The Government were consulting on changes to Judicial Review, including introducing a test for ‘standing’, limiting entitlement to bring a judicial review to those with a direct interest in the case. This would have removed the ability of charities and campaigning groups to bring claims on behalf of individuals. This proposal has been dropped.

NAVCA has led the way in supporting charities to use Public Law to challenge bad decision-making by public bodies. NAVCA’s consultation response had made it clear that they were concerned about proposals that would make it difficult or impossible for charities to be involved in Judicial Review. Although NAVCA is pleased to see this plan dropped they still have concerns that the proposals do not address the fundamental issue; the best way to reduce the use of judicial review is to reduce poor decision making by public bodies. NAVCA is also concerned that it will make it difficult for small charities to be involved in Judicial Review cases by putting in additional financial and procedural hurdles.

Neil Cleeveley, NAVCA Director of Policy and Research, said:

“As is so often the case, what appears to be a dull and uninteresting consultation can have serious implications. We are relieved to see that the Government has abandoned plans to prevent charities taking judicial review cases on behalf of those they support. However, the consultation missed the point. Judicial Review is not red tape, it is a way of protecting people from bad or unfair by public bodies. A fundamental part of our democracy.”

“The fact that many Judicial Review challenges are successful is not an indicator of fundamental problems with judicial review; it is an indicator of poor decision making. Getting decisions right should be the focus.”

Find out more about NAVCA’s work to help charities and community groups use public law.

Get details of our members only public law enquiry line

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Feb 05 2014

MPs publish reports on Charity Commission and Gift Aid

The House of Commons’ Public Accounts Committee has published a critical report on the Charity Commission.  The cross party committee found that the Charity Commission failed to challenge charities about their activities and had no “coherent strategy”. The Committee Chair, Margaret Hodge MP says that the Charity Commission is not “fit for purpose” as it has persistently failed to tackle abuses of charitable status properly.

The Committee say that the Commission’s leadership has “consistently failed to tackle poor performance” and they “have little confidence on the commission’s ability to put right its problems and failings”

In response to these findings, Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said:

“This report is a stinker for the Charity Commission. They are accused of failing in their duties and being unable to sort out their problems. This matters because the Commission plays a vital role in maintaining the public trust charities rely on. The appointment of the new Chief Executive is key and the Chair would be well advised to make this a priority.”

“I hope the emphasis is now on supporting the commission rather than ‘kicking it when it’s down’.  Replacing the commission would be expensive and disruptive. Charities need a strong and supportive regulator so if the Commission cannot reform itself then maybe a wider task force is called for.  Part of the solution has to be working with other organisations supporting charities, as NAVCA members do across the country.”

Gift Aid

The Public Accounts Committee also published a report on Gift Aid and other tax reliefs on charitable donation. The report focuses on the work of HMRC to collect information to see how Gift Aid encourages donations and how they ensure that the system is not open to abuse.

Joe Irvin, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said

“This report focuses on HMRC and is critical of its use of data to monitor Gift Aid. These are valid points, it is vital for public trust that charities are never used just as a way to avoid paying taxes. However, reading the report you can forget the real value of Gift Aid to charities.”

“As the report states, Gift Aid is worth £1bn a year for charities. More than that, Gift Aid is a recognition of the value to society of donating to charity and a way to reward giving. We wholeheartedly support the recommendation to simplify the system to both reduce abuse but more importantly help charities, particularly smaller ones, to make the most of Gift Aid.”

Read the PAC reports

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