Cumbria Third Sector Network – Projects
Charities, Campaigning and Elections
On December 12 the country will take to the polls for a general election and over the next six weeks there will be a surge in campaigning by local politicians. Small charities should be aware of the guiding principles that help to maintain the independence of the charitable sector, remaining non-party political at all times.
Many local voluntary and community sector groups will have strong views on some of the issues that the main political parties will be campaigning on – for example, NHS funding, Social Care provision, education policy, flood risk management and the building of new nuclear power stations.
There are plenty of campaigning activities charities can undertake, but also some restrictions and so it’s important that any charity intending to campaign reads and understands the guidance, as the trustees are responsible for ensuring the charity’s activities stay within the law.
The Charity Commission has general guidance on Charities, Campaigning and Political Activity that applies at all times; this emphasises that the independent nature of the charity sector is of fundamental importance, and is greatly valued by the public. It also explains that is a legal requirement that charities are, and seen to be, independent from party politics.
In general terms, charities are free to campaign on issues that support their charitable purpose – so, for example, a charity that exists to support older people is likely to be able to campaign for better social care, but unlikely to be able to express a view on the building of new nuclear power stations. Charities must also ensure they remain independent, and that their involvement with political parties is balanced – whilst there are circumstances in which they may express support for a particular policy, they should not express general support for a specific political party.
This is explained in more detail in the guidance:
This general guidance also explains that it becomes more important to maintain a public perception of neutrality during the period leading up to an election, and in particular, charities must not be seen to be suggesting how the public should vote. There is further specific guidance on what charities can and can’t do during this pre-election period:
The Charity Commission guidance above is based on Charity law – but Electoral law also applies during the pre-election period. This is most relevant to charities planning to spend large amounts (over £20,000) on campaigning alone, or as part of a campaign involving a number of organisations); they are required to register as non-party campaigners. This is unlikely to apply to local voluntary organisations and community groups!
However, the guidance from the Electoral Commission also contains advice on running hustings and similar events, including advice on how to choose which political parties are involved, that might be useful to some local organisations, and is available here:
It’s not only charities that face restrictions during the pre-election period; local authorities also face restrictions on publicity and certain Council activities, as do other public sector bodies. This period before elections is known as Purdah and it starts on the day the notice of election is published.
The Charity Commission is clear that campaigning can be an effective way for charities to achieve their purpose – so organisations shouldn’t be afraid to speak out in an appropriate way. Do make sure you understand the guidance above, because getting it wrong can have legal implications for your charity’s trustees – but if your campaigning activity is clearly related to your charitable purpose, and your organisation remains independent of any particular political party, it’s likely to be acceptable.
We would recommend taking a look at this guidance from the Charity Commission and this from the Electoral Commission.
Please contact me with any further queries.
Engagement Team Manager
Supporting Refugees in Cumbria
As you may already be aware, Cumbria will be welcoming just under 300 refugees over the next 3 years. We know many local third sector organisations, churches and community groups have already expressed an interest in helping to support these individuals when they arrive in Cumbria, and Cumbria Third Sector Network are working closely with Cumbria County Council (and other local public sector organisations) to coordinate that work.
The refugees will be arriving in Cumbria as part of a national government scheme, with Cumbria County Council acting as the lead local authority for the work. The government has defined the package of support that the local area must provide to support the resettlement of refugees. This covers housing, essential furniture and white goods such as a cooker, washing machine and fridge, English language classes, and integration case work. This support will be funded by the government.
However, the national funding is only for core support – it is clear that there are many areas where local organisations and community groups will be able to offer much more help to support the resettlement of refugees, and this additional help will be greatly welcomed.
We know from other places in the country that have already resettled refugees that voluntary groups and local organisations can play an important role in providing “non-essential” items such as additional items of furniture, children’s toys, bicycles; or can play a vital role in offering refugee families with support in getting to know the local area and becoming involved in local social activities – activities that will help them become part of the local community.
Cumbria is in close contact with other areas of the country that have already welcomed refugees, and so we can build on their experience of what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. One common problem is that the first refugees to arrive in an area receive many donated goods and lots of support, but that those who arrive a few months later receive far less, and we are keen to avoid this happening.
The first refugees are expected to arrive in Cumbria in the spring, but the details of the families and which parts of Cumbria they will be living in will only be known much closer to their arrival. This means that many of the finer details about the support that will be needed will need to be worked out at fairly short notice, and some of the arrangements will need to be discussed at a local level – and so we’re keen to know in advance which local organisations might be interested in helping to support refugees and what type of support can be offered, so we can make sure we engage with everyone who’s interested.
If your organisation is keen to be part of the partnerships supporting refugees, then please complete the form below (Refugee Support Questionnaire) and return it to email@example.com – the information will be shared with the other organisations who are part of the Cumbria Refugee Strategic Partnership.
Refugee Support Questionnaire for Third Sector Organisations
Finally, if you’ve got any questions, please feel free to contact Carolyn Otley, who’s the Third Sector’s link to the Cumbria Refugee Strategic Partnership: CarolynO@cumbriacvs.org.uk / 01768 800350.
NEWS: The Future of Healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria
Cumbria Third Sector Network and Cumbria Action for Health have submitted a joint response to “The Future of Healthcare in West, North and East Cumbria” consultation that has followed the undertaken by the Cumbria Success Regime. You can read that response here
Cumbria Third Sector Network: New Independent Chair Appointed
John Holland was appointed as the new Independent Chair for Cumbria Third Sector Network June 2016. Some you may already know John, as he’s involved with a range of local third sector organisations, including Rotary, Friends of Brampton Hospital, Brampton Rural Housing Trust, Carlisle and District Talking Newspapers and Highlights (an organisation that brings professional artistic productions to rural audiences). His professional background is in banking and finance – with management roles in HSBC, and experience as a financial advisor to AW Jenkinson Forest Products that included setting up their pension scheme.
If anyone would like to contact John directly, the best way to do so is by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 4 September 2015, the leaders of the Cumbrian public sector, supported by the private sector led Local Enterprise Partnership and colleagues from partner organisations, have submitted an expression of interest to Government. It outlines those areas where it may be possible to negotiate a deal with Government to increase economic growth and improve the way public services are delivered in Cumbria.
Over the next few weeks and months negotiations with Government will take place to see if agreement can be reached. Nothing is certain, but these high-level propositions, if agreed as a package, have the potential to deliver real benefit to visitors and to the people, communities, and businesses of Cumbria.
You can download:
Report of the Cumbrian Commission on Welfare Reform
The Cumbrian Commission on Welfare Reform, which was led by Cumbria Third Sector Network on behalf of Cumbria Leaders Board, has now published its findings. These can be downloaded from the links below:
Third Sector Trends Study (November 2015)
From Tony Chapman
Policy & Practice, St Chad’s College
This report provides a digest of findings from the Northern Rock Foundation Third Sector Trends study. The paper focuses on the situation in Cumbria, but provides some comparative evidence from North East England and Yorkshire and the Humber to strengthen understanding of how the third sector is faring in the county.
Unlike previous working papers, which have been more analytical in content, this report simply provides readers with key statistics to improve sector intelligence.
Local Health and Wellbeing Fora in Cumbria
There are five Health and Wellbeing Fora in Cumbria – Allerdale, Copeland, Eden, Barrow and South Lakeland (Carlisle has a Health City Steering Group as it has ‘Healthy City’ status).
The Fora are recognised by the Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Board as a local influencer and to explore effective methods of working with localities. The fora have a specific remit of having an overview of local issues, providing a means of bringing together partners, and connecting with local communities to mobilise resources to impact on health and wellbeing. They have a key role of ensuring that locality issues are represented at the Public Health Alliance and Cumbria Health and Wellbeing Board.
Link to the Health and Wellbeing Fora updates (produced for the Public Health Alliance):