28 Sep 2017
Manor Gardens' Third Keynote Lecture on Wednesday 27th September was of national importance for the future role of charities. The speaker was Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, Chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on charities who has a long track record in the voluntary sector.
Her wide-ranging speech highlighted recommendations from the report, which has still not received any government response, and drew attention to areas which will affect charities in the future.
She began by saying: 'I don’t need to tell you that charities are the eyes, ears and conscience of society. They mobilise, they provide, they inspire, they advocate and they unite. I have worked in or with the sector for most of a long working life and so I was delighted to be appointed to chair the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities.' She continued by mentioning the lack of trust the public has with charities at the moment through collapses like Kids Company and the fuss around fundraising practices. 'While it was recognised that the vast majority of charities were uninvolved, these events cast a negative light on the sector and put greater expectations on charities in terms of their governance, accountability, transparency and demonstration of impact.' She felt it was thus a good time to have a major report on the sector.
The report celebrates the sector and acknowledges its huge contribution. She says:'I am delighted that the response from the sector to the report has been almost universally positive ... Several commentators have said that it is in effect a roadmap for strengthening the sector and I very much hope that is how it can continue to be used.'
Although the government hadn't responded yet she felt there were thinks that the sector could do immediately, such as strengthening the diversity of Boards and providing training on good governance. She highlighted the need for good leadership and mutual respect between Chair and CEO. Another key area that charities should do more work on was measuring impact.
Baroness Pitkeathley also reflected on the need for grants as well as contracts and for proper support for core costs. 'There has been increasing emphasis on reducing back office costs and an increasing expectation that all money raised should go to the front line. We must recognise that charities cannot operate unless their core costs are met. And these should be included in contracts- just as they always would be in private sector. We also recommended longer term contracts to ensure that contracts can be delivered sustainably by charities which can then plan for the future.'
She entered into a lively question and answer session after her speech and was applauded by the audience which was made up of our staff and volunteers and leaders in the local voluntary sector.