The UK government and charities have a long history of working together in the mission to provide services and support to those who need it. Though there has been a shortage of funding for a lot of public services, governments and councils still provide funding to charities to fill the gaps in outstanding and much needed public services.
UK Government and charity relationship
Government and charities have a very complex and multifaceted relationship that many may not be aware of. Though it is a big part of the relationship, it is generally more than just giving money to the charity.
Funding. Despite what is said above… some of the relationship is about funding. Governments do fund charities to deliver services on its behalf. This can be in the form of contracts for service provision, grants or other funding arrangements. A lot of the time the funding given is tied to specific projects or objectives and generally does not cover core operating costs for the charity. This money has to be found elsewhere.
Partnership and collaboration. Along with funding, the UK Governments and charities work together to deliver services, reach specific communities around the country and address particular issues. This can involve collaborating on projects, consulting charities on policy development and including charities with multi-sector initiatives.
Taxation. Usually a bit of a taboo subject with many, many people fed up with tax costs, taxation actually helps charities in a lot of ways. Not only are charities exempt from paying tax on most income and gains but charities can also claim Gift Aid on eligible donations, a form of indirect government support.
Gift Aid means that charities can claim an extra 25p per £1 that is donated to them from the government at no cost to the donator. Most donations are eligible but some payments do not qualify.
Policy making and advocacy. Sometimes a harmonious relationship, sometimes not. Charities engage in advocacy work to try and influence government policy to better help their beneficiaries. This often involves lobbying for legislative changes, campaigning on specific issues or participating with charity government consultations.
Regulation. Charities in the UK are regulated by the Charity Commission in England and Wales, the Scottish Charity Regulator in Scotland, and the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland in Northern Ireland. These independent regulators ensure that charities comply with legal obligations, such as submitting annual reports and accounts. The UK Government plays a part in ensuring that charities do follow the rules and are actually supporting those they say they are.
It is important to note though that charities in the UK are independent entities. They are run by their own trustees who are legally responsible for the charity’s management and decision-making.
They can choose their own strategic direction and activities, as long as these fall within their charitable objectives and comply with charity law
For the most part the UK Government and charities work well together, it has been found by some that tensions have arisen between the two over funding levels, public service provision and the increased need for charity work in the UK.
Some have been asking the question, are the government doing enough to support charities and the public sector?
The UK government’s support to the public sector and charities
We know that one of the main roles of a charity is to provide services that may have been lapsed in the public sector but, it has been frequently asked if too much is now being left to charities to do when some of the basic public services aren’t even being covered by government funding or input.
Answering the question of ‘is the government doing enough to support charities and the public sector?’ is an extremely subjective and for many, a very sensitive question. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration to why there is added pressure on public services and charities and whether there is much the government can do reverse the decisions already made regarding the public sector.
Funding: Many public services have faced significant budget constraints in recent years. While there has been some increase in funding for certain areas other sectors like education and local government have faced real-terms cuts. These budgetary decisions can impact the quality and availability of public services. When there is a strain on public services, more work is placed with charities who are also overstretched.
Long-term Challenges: Some public services are dealing with long-term challenges, such as an aging population that is increasing demand for health and social care services or the need to adapt to new technologies in areas like education and transportation.
Addressing these issues often requires strategic planning and investment, which many organisations and charities unfortunately don’t have access to, especially the latter.
Regional Differences: The level of support for public services can vary significantly across different regions of the UK. Devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own decisions about public services, which can lead to differences in funding and provision.
More rural areas of the UK can also suffer from the annual budget. Seemingly, more support is given to areas with higher populations and more urban.
Rural communities which are often hard to reach are often left with less funding than their urban counterparts. Services are often used differently between rural and urban areas, with some seeing, thankfully rarely, less than harmonious cohesion between the both.
Structural and Policy Changes: In addition to funding, the government also shapes public services through policy and structural changes. For example, changes to the organisation of the NHS or reforms to education policy can have significant impacts on these services and how many people they can support. Not all of the changes work to the service’s advantage and can then add pressure to both them and charities trying to fill the gaps.
It has been argued though by many, many people again that funding has been misappropriated by the UK government which could have been better used in propping up the public sector, put towards pay rises for overworked NHS staff and filling the gaps in public services.
With budget cuts in the third sectorand budget cuts in the public sector, more and more work is now being passed to charities who due to the lack of donations because of the cost of living crisis, are also struggling.
The problem with underfunded public services
In a report by Carnegie UK, it was found that public trust in the UK government has dropped and up to 76% of the public in England don’t trust members of parliament to make decisions to make lives better for people and 73% don’t trust the UK Government to make decisions to improve people’s lives.
It was also found that 61% do not believe that the UK Government reflect the values of honesty and integrity. Unfortunately, there is a high percentage that do not believe that the government will be able to make the right decisions to ensure that everyone who needs support can receive it, including through public services.
To many, the UK Government isn’t doing enough for the public sector and for people who rely on it for the most basic of needs.
For example, with less funding and support going into public services, there are many people who cannot access medical care within a time frame that will be beneficial to them. With NHS waiting lists at the longest they have ever been, people are being reduced to spending their savings or taking out loans to be able to afford what in the past has been a routine procedure.
The knock-on effect of this that some will have to rely on charities to provide food they need for them and their family or have to rely on the charities themselves to receive treatment.
With funding for charities in the annual budget, for many, not coming up to scratch and the price being paid by all as a result of high inflation, the burden is being passed from the public sector to the third sector.
The main issue here though is that so many people across the UK are going without the vital services they need and the support which will help them to live happy and healthy lives.
How are charities in the UK responding?
In the true nature of charity, the third sector has been working hard to ensure that as many people as possible are supported even on the smallest of resources.
There has been an increased need for foodbanks in the UK with a reported 2.9 million people using them by the end of 2022. The Trussell Trust has responded by opening more foodbanks, upping their fundraising efforts and asking more people of donations of food.
Children’s charities are also seeing a rise in requests for support for a range of things such as technology for education, support for amateur sports teams and mental health support. In the UK at the moment there is a mental health crisis which is seeing more and more children and young people needing mental health support from charities but with limited spaces to be seen by a mental health professional.
Most public services waiting lists for mental health support are too long for many children to wait on and private therapy is too expensive for most families to afford so charities are helping to provide this vital service that will help children live the happy, healthy, fun and stress-free childhoods they deserve.
Still a debate…
It will always be an ongoing argument around the UK between different groups whether or not the support to the public sector and charities from government is adequate for the issues within society at the moment.
One thing is clear though, society will have to work together to ensure that support is given where possible. Whether this be donating unwanted clothes to someone who needs them, donating food to a foodbank that you aren’t going to use or by volunteering at a charity, these are all things that can help people around in the UK in their time of need.