Motion carried: Community Futures (Voluntary Sector and Volunteering Policy Paper)
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats
Federal Policy Committee
Mover: James Lindsay
Summation: Baroness Barker (Chair of the Policy Working Group)
Conference believes that:
i) Community and voluntary organisations, by virtue of their independence, are a powerful means by which citizens can shape and change society. They unite people who are passionate about particular causes and in doing so they not only foster a sense of community and empower people to challenge the state and large corporations, but also counteract the disconnection and atomisation of today's society.
ii) A vibrant, independent community and voluntary sector, working alongside government and the private sector, enriches social, environmental and economic well-being. Government, national and local, must support the development and modernisation of voluntary organisations and social enterprises to inspire the next generation of active citizens.
Conference therefore endorses policy paper 98, Community Futures, and shares its vision of a future in which strong, independent voluntary and citizen-led community organisations, working in partnership with national and local government and the private sector, build safe, sustainable communities in which individuals and communities thrive. Conference in particular welcomes the proposals to:
1. Capitalise on the wealth of experience in the voluntary sector and build vibrant community organisations which engage the next generation through:
a) Supporting modernisation programmes designed to enable voluntary organisations to update their infrastructure, IT and business development skills and social networking skills.
b) Simplifying regulation for charities, for example by standardising information reporting requirements and making the Charity Commission the sole regulator for both incorporated and unincorporated charities.
2. Enhance the capacity of charities and social enterprises though:
a) Encouraging the Charity Commission to develop joint programmes with other infrastructure organisations to ensure that all charities have access to good practice.
b) Working with the Small Charities Coalition, the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, and local authorities to improve support to local community organisations and volunteers in statutory organisations such as school governors.
c) Negotiating a UK-wide insurance package, available from major insurers, to provide comprehensive coverage for the vast majority of volunteering, local activity and celebrations.
3 Assist companies and voluntary organisations to design, set and maintain standards of good ethical, environmental and social practice through:
a) Supporting a pilot programme to modernise Corporate Social Responsibility by developing a network of Professional Services Working Groups across the country, so that voluntary organisations have access to services such as lawyers, accountants and architects.
b) Working with a range of organisations to develop a new Community Benefit Index in which companies are encouraged to maximise their 'community footprint'.
4 Support the role played by voluntary and community organisations in convincing policy makers and the public of the need to adopt sustainable policies and technologies through:
a) Encouraging local authorities to provide advice and resources to schools, residents and tenants associations and other community groups to enable them to take an active role in managing open spaces to make them as attractive as possible for people and wildlife.
b) Working with environmental NGOs to promote individual and community actions which take forward the green agenda in practical ways.
5 Help voluntary organisations to compete for public service contracts on equal terms with statutory and private sector providers through:
a) Reviewing the implementation of the European Commission Directive 2004/18/EC to ensure that small charities are not being unfairly excluded and that the rules are being implemented with the flexibility which member states are entitled to determine.
b) Encouraging the development of public sector contracts which require bidders to demonstrate how they will develop social capital.
c) Ensuring that public services are delivered without unjustified discrimination against service-users or employees, by amending equalities legislation to narrow the exemption granted to organisations with a religious ethos , and in the interim requiring public sector commissioners to include non-discrimination clauses in their contracts with providers.
6 Encourage a range of different forms of charitable giving, and make it easier for charities to raise and earn income, through:
a) Setting up a series of initiatives, in partnership with the private sector, to promote digital giving.
b) Modernising Gift Aid, by enabling online declarations and reclaims.
7 Promote social investment through:
a) Piloting programmes under which local authorities could act as guarantors for new local investment instruments, up to a specified limit.
b) Establishing, in partnership with private investors, a high risk investment fund to enable innovative projects with the potential to transform the voluntary and community sector to be supported through early stage research and development.
c) Reviewing the legislation which governs programme related investment so that foundations would be able to invest in social good rather than always investing for return.
d) Encouraging a much larger community banking and community development finance institution sector, funded - as it is in the USA - by the big banks in lieu of the loans which they find it difficult to make to small business and social enterprises themselves.
8. Encourage volunteering as a welcome addition to, rather than a substitute for, statutory service provision, and to increase active citizenship through:
a) Engaging young people in designing new systems to incentives volunteering.
b) Commissioning research into volunteering programmes to be run by small and medium enterprises.
c) Encouraging a major increase in voluntary activity through public services, so that service units like schools, surgeries or housing estates also become volunteering hubs and catalysts, capable of using the resources that their users represent to reach out and rebuild local neighbourhood life and mutual support.
Applicability: Federal, except 1 b) and 2 a) (lines 21-23 and 25-26) which are England and Wales, and 1 a), 2 b), 4 a), 5 b), 7 a), 7 b), 8 a), and 8 c) (lines 18-20, 27-29, 43-46, 54-55, 66-70, 79 and 82-85) which are England only.
Applicability of some points varies depending on the public service affected.