Scottish charity law consultation is criticised
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) says changes to charity law proposed by government ministers are merely “tinkering around” and don't tackle key concerns. The Scottish government launched its consultation on charity law in January, proposing to increase transparency through mandating charities to publish their accounts, to provide greater independence for the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR), and to streamline the regulator’s operations. But SCVO chief executive Anna Fowlie said engagement with the sector before and after the consultation was lacking, and cited concerns around the need to increase public trust in charities, make changes based on the social and political environment that charities now operate in, and redefine what public benefit means for charitable status. Fowlie said: "There is a real risk that the current proposed changes are simply tinkering around the edges, when the environment that charities now operate in has changed significantly since the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act was passed in 2005.
Third Force News Civil Society
Charity president accuses management of 'a culture of fear'
National Childbirth Trust (NCT) president Seána Talbot has stood down and attacked the charity's leaders over changes to core strategy, a "corporate" management structure and a “culture of fear” which sees “dissent . . . being shut down.” She said in a letter written to the charity's members: “It is clear that the executive team, with the support of most of the board, have already taken the charity away from our core mission of birth and breastfeeding, and towards more generic ‘parent support’ with an emphasis on mental health.” Jessica Figueras, NCT chair of trustees, responded: “We are . . . committed to championing other issues that are important for parents including maternity care and mental health.” She also dismissed claims of a bullying culture at the charity, saying: “At NCT . . . we will not tolerate bullying or harassment of any kind.”
A 'critical year' for tax
The Charity Tax Group (CTG) says 2019/20 is likely to be “the most critical in decades” for shaping government policy on the reliefs received by the sector. CTG chair John Hemming said that the sector could be subject to comprehensive reform of the VAT system whether the UK remains in the EU or leaves with or without a deal. He wrote in the introduction to CTG’s annual review for 2018/19: "Irrespective of how Brexit is settled, VAT reliefs and rates will come under scrutiny because in Europe the Commission is looking to overhaul the VAT system . . . Even if the UK is no longer tied to the EU’s VAT regime, the UK government will certainly take stock of how it can best use the UK VAT system to achieve its policy goals." Referring to the expected publication in July of recommendations for potential reforms to the tax treatment of charities by the charity tax commission, Hemming said CTG has called for the charit y tax sy stem to be “future-proofed” and for long-term distortions such as irrecoverable VAT to be addressed.
Contactless donation points in local staff café
FareShare South West is partnering with a local legal firm in a project which sees contactless donation points placed in the firm's staff café. The charity, which redistributes food industry surplus, has teamed up with Osborne Clarke to boost corporate giving through the convenient technology. The charity says its attempts at increasing donations through payroll giving haven't been successful, noting "there is a certain level of ‘form-filling’ and organisation involved."
Debt charities rebrand
A London-wide partnership of more than two dozen charities is rebranding to boost its online presence and make online searches for its services easier. The rebranding of Capitalise as Debt Free London happens from April 23rd. The rebrand also includes a website overhaul to make it simpler for users. Matt Dronfield, Head of the Debt Free London partnership, said: “This change of brand to Debt Free London and our new advertising campaign will make it much easier for Londoners to find help and show them that they are not alone with their debt worries, and that help is readily at hand.”
Youth charity switches to the cloud
Merseyside Youth Association has moved to a cloud-based phone system to reduce costs and also be ready ahead of BT’s termination of ISDN in 2025. The youth charity has replaced its private branch exchange (PBX) and integrated services digital network (ISDN) with the ISTRA cloud system developed by communications firm Centile.
Free workplace mental health training
Mind is offering free online training to small and medium sized charities to promote good mental wellbeing in the workplace. The Mental Health for Small Workplaces program features modules on building mental health awareness, advice on taking care of oneself, and tips on supporting colleagues. Faye McGuinness, Head of Workplace Wellbeing Programmes at Mind, said: “We are beginning to see employers prioritise the mental health of their staff, but we have some way to go. Not only is looking after staff the right thing to do, but it also makes good business sense, resulting in increased productivity, morale and retention."
Charity wants longer road crossing time for elderly
Age UK has argued that elderly people need more time to cross the road than newly installed traffic lights allow. Concerns have been raised with Transport for London over new lights opposite Highbury and Islington underground station which give pedestrians just nine seconds to cross a 50ft stretch of road. Islington councillor Caroline Russell, who also sits on the London Assembly, said: “If you're in a wheelchair or walking with small children you need enough time when you get across the road. What it feels like is that the pedestrians are being left with scraps of time whereas the roundabout traffic is being given a lot more priority."
The Daily Telegraph
A third of domestic abuse victims denied help
Women’s Aid reveals that at least a third of women who contacted domestic abuse services in 2017/18 did not have access to public funds – meaning they were denied support to leave their partners and refused refuge space, and either forced to stay with their partner or become homeless. Karla McLaren, Women’s Aid’s government and political relations manager, said the findings “likely just scratch the surface of the problem,” with many women “in the most vulnerable situations – those with insecure immigration status or too fearful or unable to seek help – are unable to access refuges, are afraid to report to the police,” and cannot access financial help.
Charity supports school science
The Wolfson Foundation is helping children in cash-strapped schools carry out scientific study by transforming worn-out labs. The foundation gives about £50,000 to each school it funds to transform science labs so that children can perform practical work. “Good practical science is crucial to educate and inspire. This needs decent quality laboratories and enough equipment to allow students to work in reasonably small groups. . . We focus our funding on schools providing outstanding teaching but in poor facilities,” said Paul Ramsbottom, the charity’s chief executive.
Social media triggering seizures
The Epilepsy Society warns that a growing number of people with epilepsy say they are having seizures triggered by flashing images on social media. The charity wants the government's new plans to tackle "online harms" to recommend warnings about flashing images on such sites. More than 18,000 people in the UK are thought to have epilepsy that can be triggered by photosensitivity. The charity claims some cyber-bullies even post malicious content to deliberately trigger seizures, and says anyone found guilty of doing this should be prosecuted for assault.
Town centre therapy gardens trialled
The Royal Horticultural Society is funding a pilot scheme in which the charity has teamed up with doctors so that patients with mental health issues or dementia can be referred to work on allotments and herb gardens. It is hoped the trial will promote social inclusion and light exercise. Guy Barter, Chief Horticulturist at the RHS, said: “Gardens, in all their myriad forms, promote good health and wellbeing . . . Sensory gardens have educational and recreational applications and use plant choice, features and installations to stimulate each of the senses."