London,
27
March
2017

PRCA Charities Group welcomes House of Lords Report

•Report accepts PRCA recommendations •Calls for more “digital trustees” from communications industry

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) has welcomed the report of the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry on charities as a “turning point” in the role of charities.

The Report makes 100 recommendations to government and within these, the Committee has accepted all but one of the recommendations the PRCA gave to the Committee in its evidence.

Most significantly, the Report makes recommendations to implement the Hodgson review into the Lobbying Act in full and for government to review its consultation with the sector following the “gagging clause” controversy.

As well as identifying a £200m funding gap to charities likely to result from Brexit, which needs to be better understood, the Committee’s Report argues that charities need more support in terms of funding which recognises that their core costs must be met, and that grants, as distinct from loans or contracts, play a vital role.

It also recommends practical measures to strengthen charity governance, including greater access to training opportunities.

Simon Francis CMPRCA, Co-Chair of the PRCA’s Charity and Not-for-Profit Group and Founder Member of Campaign Collective, welcomed the publication of the report:

“We called for the Committee to deliver a report which provides leadership and the opportunity to re-set the relationship between government and the charity sector. And this is what has been delivered.

“If the recommendations are implemented it will be a turning point in the way charities behave and the implications for communications and PR staff working in the sector are significant.

“The report recommends improved transparency and use of digital platforms which communications staff must be empowered to deliver.”

The report states that charities’ record in the use of digital platforms is mixed. While some charities are at the cutting edge of new technology, others have yet to realise its potential with regard to fundraising, volunteering and communications. It recommends that charities should actively consider including a digital trustee role on their boards.

Francis continued:

“The key to improving digital skills in charities is knowledge sharing and access to affordable training, this is where organisations like the PRCA must continue to deliver and members of our industry from all sectors must be prepared to step in and become trustees.

“The report also rightly states that trust is key to maintaining a vibrant charity sector and we look forward to continuing our work to build and defend the reputation of charities in the UK.”

Chairman of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, Baroness Pitkeathley, said:

“Charities are the lifeblood of society. They play a fundamental role in our civil life and do so despite facing a multitude of challenges. Yet for them to continue to flourish, it is clear that they must be supported and promoted.

“We found that charities lead the way with innovation, but that this is at risk of being stifled by the ‘contract culture’. And while advocacy is a sign of a healthy democracy, and is a central part of charities’ role, this role has been threatened by Government.

“We hope that charities will be encouraged by this report; that the Government will respect their role; and that in addition it will value the connections charities have with all sections of society, and encourage the vital scrutiny they provide.”

Summary of PRCA recommendations and references to the report:

R1. Recognise and respect the diversity of charities. MET – page 16

R2. Provide leadership to aide in re-setting the reputation of charities. MET

R3. Support the reform of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act (i.e. the “Lobbying Act”), in line with the Hodgson Review. MET – page 116

R4. Resist any future attempts to limit campaigners’ freedom of speech. PARTLY MET (especially met in regards to government regulation)

R5. Support for charities to innovate more in the digital arena – even if this means some projects will “fail.” MET – page 114

R6. Examine how group purchasing, approved suppliers (who have limited profit levels when working with charities) and strategic partnering with commissioners can help re-boot charities’ innovation. NOT MET

R7. Reject any notion of anti-advocacy plans by government, but if such plans are introduced they should reflect the diversity of the sector and be on a level playing field with corporate suppliers to government. MET – page 114

R8. Resist the attempts to think the answer to a “better” charity sector is more regulation via the Charity Commission. MET – page 36

Boilerplate

About the PRCA Charity & Not-For-Profit Group

The Charity & Not-For-Profit Group supports PRCA members working in-house and in agencies for a wide range of charities, voluntary sector organisations, NGOs, not-for-profit groups and social enterprises.

Our four main areas of focus are:

1. Sharing knowledge & developing new talent

2. Building the reputation of the charity and not-for-profit sector

3. Protecting charity and not-for-profit freedom of speech

4. Celebrating best practice

About PRCA

Who we are: Founded in 1969, the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is a UK-based PR and communications membership body, operating in 48 countries around the world. We represent in excess of 20,000 people across the whole range of the PR and communications industry. The PRCA promotes all aspects of public relations and communications work, helping teams and individuals maximise the value they deliver to clients and organisations.

What we do: The Association exists to raise standards in PR and communications, providing members with industry data, facilitating the sharing of communications best practice and creating networking opportunities.

How we do it and make a difference: All PRCA members are bound by a professional charter and codes of conduct, and benefit from exceptional training. The Association also works for the greater benefit of the industry, sharing best practice and lobbying on the industry's behalf e.g. fighting the NLA's digital licence.

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Matt Cartmell
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