The Association of Charity Officers (ACO) was established in 1946, and currently represents and supports 130 charities giving grants to individuals across the UK. “Benevolent charities” is a term used to describe ACO members, and refers to grant-giving organisations which exist to help people who have fallen on hard times, due to age, disability, accidents, long term health conditions, illness, crisis, natural disaster or other reasons.
Many such organisations were founded in Victorian times by local communities, trade unions, and groups of people working together, by industrialists and philanthropists, and some by business communities. A large number of benevolent charities exist to help communities of people who have worked or are working in certain professions, jobs, industries or trades. These charities are called occupational benevolent funds, and may be supported by employers, employees and professionals working in different fields.
All our members are registered charities helping people from all walks of life. As well as financial grants, benefits include advice and counselling, sheltered housing and registered care homes. ACO supports its members and the wider philanthropic sector by improving co-operation between funds and to work towards improved and common standards of grant making. We provide a voice for our members and a bridge to Government on issues such as this consultation.
ACO members are realistic in coming terms with electronic banking but have two main areas of concern:
Effect on Beneficiaries
ACO members give grants to people in need for a variety of reasons, a health crisis, disability, need for care and so on. These beneficiaries are in the most part extremely vulnerable and in most cases are paid by cheque.
Many beneficiaries are elderly, and are simply unable and unwilling to migrate to electronic banking.
Effect on Organisations
Cheques are a low cost, easy to administer and understand. Many of our members run on extremely small staff compliment and it is essential that costs of administration are kept low.
ACO members like many charities fund raise to maintain the ability to help others through provision of grants. Many ACO members organise events and solicit small sums from many donors to raise the necessary funds to do their work. A clear alternative must be made available for these small but vital donations made as a result of personal and spontaneous contact.
Working through the Payments Council
ACO is a member of the Payments Council CVS Liaison Group. We share the view that there must be no dilution of provision of cheques until a workable alternative has been agreed and would expect the government to monitor this.
ACO has kept its members informed of progress on these developments through newsletters, briefing and meetings. There is some scepticism from members about the timetable and the willingness of banks to not pre-empt the timetable before issues and concerns are fully resolved.
We urge the Select Committee to take seriously the concerns of those organisations giving grants to people in need and their beneficiaries.
Association of Charitable Officers
5th May 2011.