Written evidence submitted by the FSI
FSI is a registered charity that supports the UK's small charity
sector (paras 1-3).
FSI urges the government to work with the small charity sector
in the development of the Big Society (para 4).
FSI would welcome the opportunity to give oral evidence to the
Committee (para 5).
FSI defines the Big Society in the context of devolution of power
to local areas and the empowerment of citizens to deliver services
in their area (paras 6-11).
FSI advocates a sustainable mixed income economy model for all
charities to ensure the ongoing delivery of services (paras 12-14).
voluntary and community sector is able to deliver public sector
contracts but must be bound by legislative and best practice frameworks
sector must develop and deliver within a rigorous best practice
framework (paras 19-25).
FSI welcomes collaboration between charities and local authorities
1. The FSI is a registered charity that supports
the UK's vibrant small charity sector with strategic training,
consultancy and advocacy services aimed at building sustainability
and knowledge-sharing. Small charities can access free capacity-building
programmes that encompass the full range of fund development and
2. The FSI is dedicated to delivering services
that support charities to develop a mixed income economy ensuring
a reduction in dependency on either state, voluntary or earned
income. Our aim is to support the development of a sector that
is independent of any one source of income to ensure stability
and neutrality, so that the first concern of all sector organisations
is the beneficiaries who need their support.
3. The FSI welcomes both the government's commitment
to engaging with the third sector and the opportunity to contribute
to this green paper consultation. As the largest umbrella body
focused solely on small charities, we are uniquely placed to comment
from our experience of working with thousands of small charities
between 2007 and 2011.
4. We urge the government to consult with the
small charity sector and utilise the networks of organisations
like the FSI to ensure that the small charity sector can contribute
to the delivery of the Big Society.
5. The FSI would welcome the opportunity to make
an oral submission to the Committee.
A definition of what the "Big Society"
is or should be
6. Drawing from government speeches and statements
from the past 18 months, and from our experience in working with
the small charity sector, the FSI makes the following definition:
Big Society is born from the vision of living in a "post-bureaucratic
age", a time when local communities have greater powers to
take over and deliver local services. The underlying belief is
that if local communities have more knowledge about the services
that are delivered to them and what issues affect them, then they
themselves will come up with fresh ideas using more innovation
and creativity and at a lower cost than has been delivered by
7. Fundamental to the Big Society is a belief
that local people are often best places to solve local problems
and improve the communities in which they live. In reality, it
is about enabling citizens to play a part, however large or small,
and to create a culture of shared responsibility that acknowledges
that the state cannot do it all on the one hand, and that equally
citizens cannot do it all on the other. Only by collaboration,
by sharing information and openness will some of the challenges
we face be overcome at all levels of society. Therefore local
charities are best placed to meet the needs of local people who
require local solutions to improve local communities.
8. If all goes well, this will be the largest
redistribution of power from "Whitehall Mandarins to the
man and woman on the street".
9. The government talks about three strands:
first strand is about transferring real power to communities;
second strand is about public service reform: opening up public
services to new providers including, specifically, the voluntary
and community sector, bringing those services closer to the people
who use them, and liberating people who are at the frontline of
delivering those services; and
third strand is about social action - inspiring people and making
it easier for them to give time and money to things done locally
to help people.
10. The current challenge will be to deliver
the message in a way that inspires and encourages citizens to
mobilise. The second will be to overcome using the words Big Society
as a catchphrase as this will only ensure it continues to be misunderstood.
11. The Big Society must be communicated as a
long-term project that will only be delivered through cultural
change and this could take generations.
The impact and consequences of reductions in public
expenditure on the Government's ambitions to deliver its vision
for the Big Society
12. The delivery of the Big Society vision itself
will not be impacted by the reductions in public expenditure.
Whilst the reduction has impacted some charities, which are in
essence Big Society organisations, neither the Big Society nor
the cuts came before one another - both were outlined in the pre-election
manifesto and each are being delivered consecutively rather than
one responding to the other.
13. Some charities became over-reliant on statutory
income, to the detriment of other funding streams. It is important
for all charities to maintain a mixed income economy to ensure
the continued delivery of core charitable purpose to the identified
14. The FSI has unequivocally promoted the mixed
income economy model, which is core to the FSI's work.
The role of and capacity for the voluntary and
community sector to deliver local public services including the
appropriateness of using charitable income or volunteer labour
to subsidise costs
15. Voluntary and community sector organisations
successfully deliver statutory contracts in all areas of public
spending. Small charities in particular are able to offer specialised
skills and links to specific beneficiary groups including, often,
those judged to be hardest to help.
16. It is not appropriate for charitable income
to be applied to the delivery of public services. This runs entirely
against the duty of care that exists between an organisation and
its donors and the promotion of transparency and accountability.
17. Charities are often bound by funding agreements
with donors, particularly trust and foundation income, and it
is important to maintain a rigorous framework tracking and reporting
to this. To this end, the FSI promotes best practice around the
clear application of funds to their stated purpose.
18. Charities are bound by the provisions of
the Charities Act 2006 and any/all subsequent amendments.
Possible problems and challenges from increased
commissioning of public service provision from the voluntary and
community sector as envisaged by the Government
19. Many small charities possess valuable skills
and community engagement that can deliver excellent impacts within
public delivery. It is absolutely right that the Government should
utilise these skills in the delivery of the public services to
defined beneficiary groups.
20. It is imperative that the process, selection
and delivery of commissioning is open and transparent with clear
21. The Government and voluntary sector has a
duty to champion best practice in all areas of work, particularly
commissioning. There is a clear need for charities to understand
the ethical and ideological considerations of their own funding
model, ensuring a suitably balanced mixed income economy that
balances the sustainability of their core benefit delivery with
any public contracts.
22. In promoting best practice, it is imperative
to advocate for rigorous monitoring and evaluation frameworks
so that charities delivering public services can report to their
commissioners and non-statutory funders as to the efficacy and
impact of their work.
Governance and accountability issues arising out
of different organisational forms of social enterprise and co-operatives;
and the participation of voluntary sector and community groups
in greater public service provision
23. Accountability should be clearly defined
from the outset of each contract, which should be entered into
after appropriate due diligence by that charity.
24. The Government and Civil Society should work
collaboratively to strengthen The Compact and ensure its application
to all public/charity sector contracts.
25. Charities should have access to training
and information regarding best practice in working with commissioners
and with prime contractors. The FSI provides free training to
small charities, including a one day course on Being Bid Ready:
Working with Prime Contractors, and would welcome the opportunity
to work with the government in the wider rollout of strategic
learning for small charities in the provision of public contracts.
The place of local authorities in the transfer
of power from Whitehall to communities and the role democratically
elected local councillors should play
26. Local communities, and in turn the small
charities working within those communities, understand the issues
facing those communities and are often best-placed to address
the causative effects and social outcomes of these issues, as
defined in paragraphs 6-11 of this submission.
27. The FSI is working to promote greater collaboration
between local authorities and the small charity sector to ensure
that both parties acknowledge the benefits of collaboration and
the knowledge, skills and experience each party brings to the