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Cameron launches £10m Social Action Fund in bid to ‘renew Britain’s culture of philanthropy’

23 May 2011
Photo of David Cameron

David Cameron addressing Voice09, the Social Enterprise Coalition's annual conference

Photographer: Charlie Pinder

Prime Minister David Cameron put some meat on his under-nourished Big Society brand today with a wide-ranging menu of support and incentives in the government's Giving White Paper.

The Giving White Paper seeks to ‘renew Britain’s culture of philanthropy by working with charities and businesses to support new ways for people to contribute which fit into busy modern lives’.

Speaking at an event today in Milton Keynes, Cameron said: ‘The Big Society is not some fluffy add-on to more gritty and more important subjects. This is about as gritty and important as it gets – giving everyone the chance to get on in life and making our country a better place to live.’

New commitments in the White Paper include:

  • A £10million Social Action Fund to support the most promising ideas for growing giving in priority areas in England and boosting levels of engagement over the next two years – including new schemes for people to volunteer a little when it suits them or match funding school philanthropy projects 
  • Challenge Prizes, of up to £100,000 for the best solutions to volunteer challenges 
  • A £30 million fund to improve the effectiveness of infrastructure organisations that support front line organisations 
  • £1 million to support Youthnet which runs the volunteering website www.do-it.org.uk and which will share its data more freely with organisations. Facebook have said that they will make this data accessible through them 
  • £700,000 to support Philanthropy UK connecting wealthy people with charities that need their support 
  • £400,000 support from Government and NESTA to trial ‘Spice’ in England which gives volunteers ‘thank yous’ like vouchers or discounts with local businesses when they do good things for the community 
  • Establishing a new honours committee to ensure people are recognised and celebrated for exceptional and sustained philanthropy 
  • Trial charity promotions on the public service website Directgov that gets around 4.5 million visits per week 
  • Open up government buildings to charities and voluntary groups 
  • Hold a Giving Summit in the Autumn to bring together charities, philanthropists, businesses, technologists and financiers to set the course for the future of giving 
  • All Ministers have agreed to a one day volunteering challenge

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: ‘The building of a bigger stronger society will not be done by government but by citizens. However, it will not emerge overnight and Government has to play a role in supporting it. That is why, after levels of giving have flatlined for years, this government is taking action, introducing policies to make giving give back, cut red tape and spark innovation. These changes form part of our desire to build a big society, where power is decentralised, public services are opened up and social action is encouraged.’

Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said: ‘We want to help Britain become an even more generous country. It needs a new approach which is all about making it easier to get involved and make a difference.’ 

Justine Greening, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘The philanthropy package at this year’s Budget represented the most radical and generous reforms to charitable giving for more than twenty years. The plans we are setting out today in the Giving White Paper further demonstrate our commitment to encouraging people to donate. We want to make it easier for everyone to give to charity and I am particularly keen to create a US-style culture of philanthropy where people who can afford to will routinely donate substantial amounts to charities across the country.’

The Giving White Paper builds on other work to support philanthropy including changes to the tax system announced in the budget 2011. It’s estimated that these new measures will be worth £600m to charities over the lifetime of this parliament. They include: 

  • Removal of gift aid paperwork for donations up to £5,000 (by April 2013)
  • Move to a new online filing system for gift aid claims (by 2013)
  • Reduction in rate of inheritance tax for estates that leave 10% or more to charity

Initiatives already announced by the government include rights for frontline public sector staff to form mutual organisations and take over the services they run, and a commitment by the Civil Service to give 30,000 volunteer days a year. Meanwhile, the the Localism Bill is progressing through parliament. 

This summer, the Big Society Bank will make its first investments; 11,000 16 year olds will be the first to take part in the National Citizen Service and the first of 5000 Community Organisers will receive training and support to help engage people with their communities.

Announcements get mixed reaction

Commenting on the announcements, Adele Blakebrough, CEO of Social Business Trust, said: ‘We welcome the government’s recognition today of the role that charities, business and social enterprise can play in delivering the government’s vision for the Big Society.

‘When businesses take an active role in providing money professional expertise and other in-kind resources, it allows social enterprises across the UK to scale up their operations and have a positive impact on a much larger number of beneficiaries.'

But Social Enterprise Coalition CEO Peter Holbrook warned that 'giving alone won't do it'. He said individual giving would only supply fraction of the capital needed and the government should 'open the gates for social investment'.

Social Business Trust featured in the White Paper as a case study of where business has provided professional and specialist skills as an example of giving. It is a partnership of six world-class businesses – Bain & Company, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, Ernst & Young, Permira and Thomson Reuters – who have come together to combine their resources and expertise to help accelerate the growth of social enterprise. 

Damon Buffini, Chairman of Social Business Trust and founding partner at Permira, said: ‘Business can help build more caring communities by supporting leading social enterprises. Most of them are small and find it impossible to access the kind of advice and expertise that they need to grow. The demand for funding is real but the need for business expertise is just as important. At SBT, we want to help more of these businesses become commercially sustainable so they can maximise their social impact.’

SBT’s founding business partners have committed to support twenty social enterprises in the UK who want to grow their organisations over the next five years. The goal is to enable these social enterprises to meet the needs of an additional one million people through the injection of £10m in cash and in-kind support from the founding partners.

The fund is currently invested in Women Like Us, a social enterprise that helps women who want to find part-time work that fits with their family commitments, and in the Challenge Network, the UK’s largest provider of NCS (National Citizen Service) programmes.

Government must 'open gates for social investment'

Social Enterprise Coalition CEO Peter Holbrook called on the government to create a bolder package of measures to encourage social investment.

'Existing measures including Community Interest Tax Relief and the Big Society Bank are very well, but they're not enough,' Holbrook said. 'If the Government is serious about creating a Big Society then it needs to draw in the business and finance world. Government needs to develop a broader set of levers and incentives to attract private capital to tackle deep-rooted problems that are traditionally solved by reliance on the public purse.

'For generations charities have been relied upon to tackle the UK's social and environmental issues, but it doesn't have to stay that way. Rather than looking to what has always been done, the Government has anopportunity to change the UK system. It is ill equipped to deal with the challenges our country is facing.'

 

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The Giving White Paper builds

The Giving White Paper builds on other work to support philanthropy including changes to the tax system announced in the budget 2011. It’s estimated that these new measures will be worth £600m to charities over the lifetime of this parliament.