Historians often refer to the Victorian period as the Age of Reform - a time when both pressure groups and philanthropists were actively debating and agitating for constitutional, political, economic and social reform bills. Our starting point was that we think the economic and social challenges of the early 21st century provide an opportunity to kick start a debate between government and trusts and foundations about today's problems.
The day commenced with a welcome from our Chair for the day, Judith Smith, Director of Help and Advisory Services at the Charity for Civil Servants who ably guided us through the day, kept everyone to time and entertained delegates with many witty asides.
Out first presentation was from our conference partner, James Bevan, Chief Investment Officer at CCLA. James made a thought provoking presentation that got heads nodding as he highlighted the various perils facing investors including the accumulating debt burden on the world economy and the difficulty of doing “business as usual” for the foreseeable future.
Dame Carol Black, the Department of Health’s Expert Advisor made a wide ranging speech on improving the welfare of working people. She highlighted the advantages of using already existing resources such as those in the NHS to find creative, preventative solutions to ill health and helping people back to productive and fulfilling working lives.
Julia Unwin CBE, Chief Executive of Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust spoke on the impact of welfare reform on the work of grant-making trusts. She reminded us that the reforms would have a major impact on household budgets, reverse the long standing convention of the recipient of benefits from “purse to wallet” and warned that the changes would lead to an increase in destitution.
After lunch, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, appointed by the government to lead its review of the Charities Act 2006, and Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO debated the future for charities.
Sir Stuart gave a powerful speech on the role of the Charity Commission in the recent Cup Trust affair that gained wide press coverage in The Times, Third Sector and Civil Society. He said that the lack of action brought damage and disrepute to the sector, potentially at serious risk of losing the trust and confidence of the public and concluding “It seems in the case of the Cup Trust, the Commission was so concerned about what it couldn’t do, that it didn’t do what it could”.
Lord Hodgson gave an entertaining and informative report on his work reviewing the Charity Act, commenting on charity registration, the role of HMRC and the Charity Commission and how they might work together to clamp down on tax avoidance schemes, the need to move away from a tick box approach to regulation encouraging good “judgement, not process”.
Julian Stanley Group Chief Executive of Teacher Support Network and David Sulkin CEO at the Musicians Benevolent Fund presented a detailed and expert introduction to strategic planning for benevolent funds, sharing their recent learning of conducting such a process and reflecting the trend among ACO members to review and restructure their operations to fit with and anticipate new and growing demands on their services. This session was chaired by Diane Leicester from Pharmacist Support.
To round off Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us and Alban Hawksworth, Welfare Benefits Specialist gave an introduction to the rapidly growing portfolio of support services offered to benefit claimants and applicants for charitable funds by telephone and on line and ran through a concise and comprehensive round up on benefit changes. No mean feat!
The drinks reception sponsored by Russell-Cooke LLP was kicked off by James Sinclair Taylor, partner and Head of the Charity and Social Business Team at the firm, after which delegates retired to a sunlit terrace overlooking the Thames and central London for a welcome breath of fresh air and networking.