Select Committee on Treasury Written Evidence

Supplementary memorandum submitted by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO)


  1.1  NCVO is the largest general membership body for charities and voluntary organisations in England. NCVO has sister councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Established in 1919, NCVO gives voice to over 5,000 organisations. Nearly 3,000 of our members are local organisations, and over 3,600 of our members have an income of less than £500,000. NCVO champions voluntary action, our vision is of a society in which people are inspired to make a positive difference to their communities. A vibrant voluntary and community sector deserves a strong voice and the best support. NCVO works to provide that support and voice.

  1.2  NCVO welcomes the opportunity to give further evidence to the Treasury Committee's inquiry into unclaimed assets within the financial system. This submission should be treated as supplementary to our submission made in February 2007 which deals with the broader questions posed by the inquiry. This submission relates only to the developments which have taken place since our original submission was made, notably publication of the report from the Commission on Unclaimed Assets on 14 March 2007.


  2.1  The Social Investment Bank (SIB) proposed by the Commission on Unclaimed Assets is one of a range of options for ensuring that unclaimed assets support a broad range of social activities and causes.

  2.2  The report confirms that the SIB will act as a wholesaler, working through existing and emerging financial intermediaries. This will be critical to the success of any new institution as the estimated value of these funds means they are likely to have a significant impact on the existing market for social and community investment. Working with and through the existing market will also help to avoid duplication and maximise expertise.

  2.3  It is also crucial that any new institution to reinvest unclaimed assets is genuinely independent. While the report from the Commission on Unclaimed Assets recognises the importance of this principle, it also suggests that the SIB would be "answerable to the third sector". However, these funds do not derive from the third sector, the government or the financial institutions holding the assets. Given the public nature of these funds, it may be appropriate for any distributors to be accountable to Parliament but they should not be accountable to any one sector.


  3.1  NCVO consulted members about proposals to reinvest unclaimed assets in society between August and October 2006. The responses that we received emphasised the importance of sustainable use of these funds to ensure that their impact is maximised, and expressed concern that resources might only be directed towards the most well-known or understood organisations and causes.

  3.2  There is a clear need to situate funds from unclaimed assets within the broader context of the current funding climate for the third sector. As the Government's Third Sector Review confirms[9], access to appropriate funding and finance is the single biggest concern facing the sector. While social investment is increasingly important, there is a need to remember that different funding tools are needed by different organisations for different activities and at different times. Funds from unclaimed assets should therefore also be used to provide a small grants programme and programme-specific initiatives as well as providing equity finance through the SIB[10].

Mubeen Bhutta

April 2007

9   HM Treasury and Cabinet Office (2006) The future role of the third sector in social and economic regeneration: interim reportBack

10 Back

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