Helen Barnard: Place-based philanthropy should play a starring role in levelling up

27 Jan

Helen Barnard is Associate Director at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Research and Policy Director at Pro Bono Economics.

Next month we expect the publication of the long-promised Levelling Up White Paper (political drama allowing). Discussion tends to focus on the role of the public sector and how to attract private investment but this overlooks the crucial role that civil society must play if levelling up is to be a success.

Many places in most need of transformation lack civil society organisations and miss out on the philanthropic giving which supports them. The white paper must include proposals to remedy this if it is to deliver on its ambition.

Past attempts show civil society is central to successful regeneration

Previous attempts at regeneration have shown that strong civil society involvement is crucial to success. Places with more civic assets and community participation saw the biggest and most sustained falls in deprivation under previous programmes. Failures often followed a lack of community involvement.

Civil society organisations provide unmatched insights into community issues, helping design schemes that truly meet local needs. Participating in civil society builds social capital, neighbourliness and trust. Communities that gain control over resources and decisions invest in spaces and services that nurture community life and pride in place.

Examples abound from the Big Local programme. On the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, a resident-led partnership has reinvigorated community life, with holiday play schemes, employment support, projects to tackle loneliness and improve mental health, as well as establishing a community hub as a shared place for advice and activities.

Polling for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society found that people in levelling up areas prioritise living standards, good jobs and decent pay. Achieving these requires civil society organisations. They employ nearly a million people and disproportionately unlock opportunities for those furthest from the labour market. Charities provide many of the mental health, social care and social prescribing services which boost people’s health and wellbeing, support employment, bring down reoffending and reduce pressure on GPs and hospitals.

But many deprived places lack a thriving charitable and philanthropic sector

Deprived places have fewer charities and voluntary organisations than less disadvantaged areas. Research by NPC shows there are 28 per cent fewer local charities per 1,000 people in Levelling Up Fund priority one areas compared to the lowest priority areas.

Recent research by Pro Bono Economics uncovers funding patterns that help to explain this. Looking at self-assessment tax records, people in the wealthiest parts of the country make seven times as many donations to charity as those in the most deprived areas (excluding London). Other research by New Local shows charitable grant funding disadvantages ‘left-behind’ communities. A University of Southampton study found charities in the most deprived local authority areas lost a fifth of their income from local government in recent years, while those in the least deprived places saw little change.

So how do we boost place-based philanthropy?

Pro Bono Economics research highlights significant opportunities to increase charity funding through philanthropy. A declining proportion of the public give to charity, high earners have become less generous and too few donations claim Gift Aid. Closing these giving gaps could raise nearly £3 billion for the country’s charities. This wouldn’t necessarily ensure greater funding flows to the places which most need it, but there are plenty of ways to achieve this.

“Diaspora philanthropy” was suggested by Danny Kruger in his 2020 report for the government. Many wealthy people now live in London or the South East but grew up in or near places in need of funding. Encouraging them to direct their philanthropy towards their former home turf could help fill the gap. Examples include Jonathan Ruffer in the Northeast and Andrew Law (also the funder of the Commission on Civil Society) in Sheffield who has donated to the University of Sheffield to fund student support and medical research.

There are risks in this approach, however, as Rob Williamson, Chief Executive of the Tyne & Wear and Northumberland Community Foundation, points out. Many places in most need of support don’t have connections with a wealthy donor, and the places donors feel most attached to won’t always be those that are most deprived. In addition, donors are more often motivated to give to specific causes rather than to a place. Community Foundations and giving circles, or cause networks, can play a crucial role in bridging between these interests.

Giving circles or cause networks connect donors with others who are interested in a particular issue. Many have links to one or more of the 47 Community Foundations around the UK. The Foundations bring together multiple funders and donors with local charities and other partners, creating connections between the needs of a local area and the interests of donors and funders.

Building on this, the Law Family Commission on Civil Society is exploring the idea of establishing local Philanthropy Champions, particularly in areas where civil society is weak. Metro Mayors could nominate a Philanthropy Champion to encourage giving by their peers, the business community, and wealthy individuals who grew up in their area. The champions could also spread best practice and work with mayors, councils, MPs and expert local organisations to understand local need and connect it with interested donors.

Wealth advisers could also play a much bigger role in raising awareness of and encouraging philanthropy and place-based giving. Currently, only one in five wealth advisors raise philanthropic giving with clients, and only half of higher and additional rate taxpayers are aware of Gift Aid.

Match funding schemes have a good track record in supporting philanthropic giving, particularly through increasing the amount donated and directing it towards particular appeals or causes. Matched donations are an average of 2.5 times higher than unmatched donations. Over a third of respondents to the Big Give survey said they gave to a matched funded appeal because of the matching contribution. These schemes are most successful when they have broad objectives and a flexible approach, enabling local variation and tailoring to donors’ interests.

Just as importantly, the Charities Aid Foundation highlights (from its experience delivering the Government’s Growing Place-based Giving Fund) the importance of developing local civil society infrastructure and capacity, not just handing out money. Long-term funding for core costs, particularly staff, is at the heart of this. Without this, money tends to flow into places which already have such infrastructure and capacity, rather than those which have most need of it. A new Levelling Up Match Funding Scheme could be designed to redress geographical imbalances by limiting it to certain areas or offering a higher level of match funding in levelling up priority areas than elsewhere.

The political landscape is mired in uncertainty, but we can be sure that the pressing need will remain to increase opportunity, living standards and the quality of community life in places that have long been neglected. Achieving that ambition will require serious and sustained policy focus and the full participation of a thriving social sector.

Three cheers for small charities, and for the Centre for Social Justice

8 Dec

The nationalisation of many of our country’s most famous charities, and their consequent loss of the power of independent initiative as they decline into mere adjuncts of the central bureaucracy, is one of the saddest stories of our time.

What is one to do, if one becomes rich and wishes to turn philanthropist? For it is pointless to write cheques to these huge but lifeless organisations, nowadays funded by the state.

To this conundrum the Centre for Social Justice offers an answer. On Monday night it launched the CSJ Foundation, set up to support hundreds of small, grassroots charities, ten of which received awards.

There is something faintly incongruous about sitting down to a delightful dinner, in the lofty, pillared magnificence of St John’s Smith Square, a stone’s throw from the Houses of Parliament, in order to learn from elegant and prosperous people how to fight poverty.

But any sense of incongruity was forgotten as one heard the testimony of the small charities. I was sitting at the same table as Anna Smith, Chief Executive of One25, in Bristol, which was set up 26 years ago and provides a nightly van service for women trapped in street sex work: a cup of tea, somewhere safe to talk or to sleep.

Smith observed that many people wrongly imagine these street workers to be like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, leading an almost glamorous existence as they earn a bit of extra money.

In reality, these women are often homeless, often have mental health problems, are often addicted to drugs, are often raped and beaten up, often lose custody of their children, are ashamed of what has become of them and feel they are beyond any hope of escape.

As part of the award, the CSJ made a short film about One25 which, Smith said, “really encapsulates what we do”, so is useful in explaining this to people.

Doug Barrowman, of the CSJ Foundation, remarked in his speech that 85 per cent of charitable giving goes to only 4.4 per cent of charities by number.

How, he wondered, can a prospective donor, following in the footsteps of “the greats who came before, the likes of Carnegie, Cadbury and Peabody”, evaluate charities?

Tim Montgomerie, who in 2005 founded ConHome, the year before founded with Iain Duncan Smith and Philippa Stroud the CSJ, which has since worked to tackle the root causes of poverty, learning from the work done by hundreds of small charities and urging the government of the day to apply those lessons.

Duncan Smith spoke last. He said that “in every difficult area I found a charity that had solved the problem”, and went on: “We are here to change lives, not to observe them.”

The tone of politics is often rancorous. This event was not like that. In place of partisanship one saw a disinterested desire to help those least able to help themselves.

That is not a very newsworthy endeavour, but across the length and breadth of the kingdom, small charities are striving with slender means but with dedication and understanding to help those the state is too vast and insensitive to know how to help.

Iain Duncan Smith: Small local charities are the heroes of our time – and we honour them this week at the CSJ Awards

15 Jun

Iain Duncan Smith is a former Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, founded the Centre for Social Justice, and is MP for Chingford and Woodford Green.

One of the things I have been most impressed with in my constituency over the last year is how many people have been mobilised to help their neighbours, especially those who are elderly or had to shield, and I know this has been the case up and down the country.

These acts of kindness and community fellowship have been bright lights during the pandemic. Charities have been at the heart of this, supporting the most vulnerable in their communities and doing everything in their power to keep their services open as the world shut down around them.

Each year, the Centre for Social Justice (the think tank I founded) recognises some of these outstanding charities through our annual awards, where each winner is given £10,000 and a chance to showcase their life-changing work.

What makes the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) unique is that rather than being a think tank wrapped only in the Westminster bubble, our policy recommendations are informed directly from over 400 small charities spread around the country who apply their expertise and local knowledge to fight poverty in innovative ways.

And these methods are effective. Reforms the CSJ bring forward are based on what has been road tested and proven to work on the ground. Our charities know their clients, understanding that it is relationships not systems that empower people to build a better life for themselves.

This year it was only right that we recognise charities that have tailored their services to meet the specific needs of the pandemic, showing the very best of localism and the power of the community spirit. Many of the CSJ Alliance charities have harnessed the power of the community to support their work. Often for the first time, neighbourhoods have come together to support their most vulnerable members, demonstrating the very best of the British spirit and something which I hope will be one of the few enduring side effects of this pandemic.

Take for example one of this year’s winners, MCR Pathways, a mentoring and talent development programme which supports young people in or on the edges of the care system in Scotland. The charity supports 2,500 young people and, due to the intensive mentoring provided by volunteers, have seen 82 percent of their mentored pupils go on to college, university or employment compared to just 60 per cent of non-mentored peers.

During lockdown, MCR Pathways organised funding to deliver over 300 laptops and data connections to pupils across Scotland who were digitally excluded and could not receive online lessons. A unique aspect of the MCR Pathways model is that the charity hands the programme over to the local authority at the end of five years, meaning they can focus their energies and volunteers on a new area.

Another example is The Snowdrop Project, a Sheffield-based charity that provides long-term support to survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery. Charities like this understand that it is not enough to only intervene at the immediate point of crisis, but that support must continue to assist people in re-building their lives, to thrive, and to be fully contributing members of the societies in which they live.

As is the case every year it has been difficult to narrow down the most deserving charities. To choose this year’s winners, the CSJ team scoured the country to identify the most effective organisations who fight poverty and disadvantage on the frontline. We found charities like One25 and Oasis Community Centre & Gardens who do superb, local work but are small players in the charity world.

Over 40 per cent of applications for this year’s awards came from charities with an annual income of less than £100,000. The organisations we have picked this year help the hardest to reach and who have discovered ways of scaling their work beyond their own neighbourhood. They are truly worthy winners and I look forward to being able to honour their work during our digital awards ceremony this week.

While the headlines may be preoccupied with the Government’s latest decision on Covid, the real work of fighting poverty is often done quietly and without fanfare by those who on the surface may appear unremarkable. These small charities are gradually and slowly empowering people to build a life for themselves free from poverty and the pathways that lead to it. The CSJ Awards allow us to shine a light on their life changing impact, and to show Westminster something we already know – that these charities and the individuals who run them are the true heroes of our times.

Cristina Odone: Domestic Abuse isn’t a ‘women’s issue’: it affects far more children than women

7 Nov

Cristina Odone is Head of Family Policy at the Centre for Social Justice

Domestic abuse affects almost twice as many women as men – 7.9 per cent of women survived domestic abuse in 2018, while 4.2 per cent of men did – but in terms of numbers and proportions, the single biggest group affected by domestic abuse is children: one in five will experience it in the home. Last year, half of the children who were assessed as in need of being looked after by their local authority had experienced domestic abuse. More than 60 per cent of women in refuge in 2017 had a child under 18.

This crime has spiralled during the pandemic and attendant lockdowns. Helplines recorded huge spikes in calls – in June alone, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline recorded a 77 per cent surge. SafeLives, the national charity, surveyed front line workers who said their caseload had increased by more than a quarter. Between April and September calls to the NSPCC almost doubled, reflecting the huge increase in the number of children impacted.

Covid-19 also has made supporting victims more difficult: domestic abuse services are struggling under the increased caseloads; refuges no longer feel like safe havens because of fear of infection; schools’ closure during lockdown deprived many children of much-needed support from teachers and counsellors; and some of the domestic abuse charities in the Centre for Social Justice’s nationwide charity Alliance have found that Covid has compounded mental health issues among parents: staff at Cheshire Without Abuse, a small charity in Crewe, have experienced two victims’ suicides and many more attempted suicides since lockdown began.

These developments will have a significant impact, over many generations. Psychologists and educationalists are beginning to adopt adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as a framework for identifying those children most vulnerable to recruitment by gangs and county lines, and to ending up in care or as NEET. Domestic violence is one of these ACEs, and risks compromising a child’s future – from their cognitive development to their substance abuse. Research shows that living with domestic abuse between parents is as psychologically harmful to children as when they are direct victims of physical abuse themselves. Dame Vera Baird QC, Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, has found an overlap between children’s experience of domestic abuse and their offending behaviour.

The trauma continues beyond the “domestic” and into the courtroom, where the child may become the bone of contention between the perpetrator, who demands access, and the victim, who fears for their child’s welfare and longs to sever all connection with their tormentor. In many cases, domestic abuse may cause a child to lose their home and contact with grandparents and other relatives; it may also mean starting a new life in a refuge and a new school.

The new Domestic Abuse Bill, now in the Lords for its third reading, acknowledges the horrific trauma that this crime causes in children. For the first time the legislation explicitly refers to children as victims, not just witnesses, of domestic violence.

This is welcome, as are the establishment of a Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Office, and the recognition that abuse takes many forms, including economic, emotional, manipulative, and controlling behaviour.

More can be done, however. We would urge the Government to adopt the whole-family approach to address domestic abuse that is being delivered by Safe Lives charity with its One Front Door programme. This brings together multi-agency specialist teams of statutory and voluntary sector partners to identify the needs of every family member at the same time. “Every” family member means engaging with the perpetrators as well as the adult and child victims. For too long many organisations have argued that funding should not be taken from supporting the victim for the purpose of engaging with the perpetrator.

For this reason, interventions that deal with the perpetrator have received a minimal proportion of government funding. Fewer than one per cent of perpetrators, including repeat offenders, receive any kind of specialist intervention. Survivors overwhelmingly agree that there can be no solution to abuse without engaging with perpetrators, yet those working in the sector continue to balk at focusing efforts on offenders.

This has proved short-sighted. The level of re-offending is high – a quarter of high-harm perpetrators are repeat offenders, and some have at least six different victims. Yet the evidence is mounting to show that those interventions working with perpetrators significantly reduce the risk of re-offending.

A study by the University of Northumbria found that these sorts of interventions resulted in a 65 per cent reduction in future offences with a huge social return on investment of £14 for every £1 spent.

A new, family-centred approach would recognise the relational context in which abuse takes place, engaging with perpetrators and children as well as victims. Domestic abuse is not a gender issue. It is a social reform issue – one that the pandemic and its aftermath have made more urgent than ever. Addressing it offers a route out of disadvantage – for children as well as their parents.

Salim Chowdhury: Integration not division offers the best future for British Bangladeshis

29 Jul

Salim Chowdhury is the Founder and President of the British Bangladeshi Caterers Association. He is a former Police officer and a former Conservative Councillor.

Public Health England’s  COVID-19 report showed that Bangladeshi’s had the highest risk of death, a risk twice as high as those from White backgrounds. The challenged plight of the community was echoed in the Race Disparity Audit too, which has British Bangladeshis at the low end of almost all measures of performance in society – from the lowest average wage to the lowest school grades.

Bengalis came to the UK as early as the 17th Century as lascar seamen. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the bulk of the community arrived. I was one of these people, coming from Syhlet like most of the diaspora. This economic migration saw all Bengalis get to work, or at least try to. Many initially found progress in the restaurant industry, creating a British staple in communities in the curry house.

Integration was everything. It was what led me to join the police and serve as a councillor, despite almost nobody from my background following these paths at the time. It is one of the reasons why any Minister engaging with the diaspora goes viral in Bangladesh – because the nation is impressed that its sons and daughters have made the journey to the UK, and in effect, made it. So for all the difficult readings of the RDA, there is actually a huge amount of pride in the community – and we need to tap into that in this recovery.

As the Founder and President of the British Bangladeshi Caterers Association representing thousands of members across the country, I requested that all members running restaurants prioritised free meals for the elderly, vulnerable, NHS staff and care workers. This started on March 18th with the Food for the Most Vulnerable campaign. This has involved all restaurants providing over 9,000 free meals to these groups including special delivery options. Meals were provided to NHS staff across four different hospitals. This included Northwick Park Hospital which was one of the first to be hit hard and is home to a disproportionately high number of ethnic minority patients and staff in servicing Brent and Harrow.

We have seen Britons from all backgrounds come together. We have learned from each other. Tom Moore was the reason for Bangladeshi, Dabirul Choudhury, to also walk for charity – receiving huge coverage across major broadcasters in the UK and Bangladesh. Charity has reflected the best of us. The British Asian Trust’s ‘Big Curry Night In’ was an idea which worked and helped me to sign up 101 restaurants to raise money for those most in need of food and essentials throughout the crisis – and now there are British Bangladeshis participating in and with charities that they might not have done otherwise.

For all the pain caused by the crisis, British Bangladeshis are emerging with pride intact and with immense hope for the future of this country, our home. We are British first. It is up to all of us to deliver a social and economic recovery so that no ethnicity must look at statistics and see large gaps between them and another group, in turn confirming their notion of difference. All lives lost are tragic and won’t be forgotten, but we must look at all the positives, or else we’ll never have a chance to come out of the dangers to public health and the economy.

Our communities are one more than ever. It is an economic recovery, from levelling up to industries like my own in curry houses, that will deliver for our families and in turn provide them with conditions and choice which will not make them so vulnerable to other winds and storms in their lives. We must remember who and what we have got as well as who and what we have lost. My ancestors once navigated rough seas in a more challenging age. If they could, we can.