A new relationship between charities and government

Leah Davis

The covid-19 crisis has shown how government, both nationally and locally, and charities can come together to tackle major social issues. Nationally, the government spent £750 million to help charities, whilst at the local level councils and charities have overcome traditional barriers to coordinating activity to respond to local needs. 

But the crisis has also laid bare existing challenges and divides in the relationship between government and the charitable sector. The nature of the relationship between charities and the government has increasingly become one of fulfilling service delivery contracts or of campaigning, rather than a partnership for sharing intelligence, innovation, and expertise. 

Covid-19, and the recession it has created, will mean that social need, from homelessness to poor mental health, to youth crime, will continue to grow. These issues will stymy economic growth, with people unable to fully participate in the labour market.  

In a recession where both government and charity resources are severely stretched, it’s no longer viable to assume that charities and government working as they currently are can rebuild our economy and society. We need to rethink this approach. We need to rethink existing roles and relationships between charities, funders, social enterprises, and government, both nationally and locally. What’s more, we need to find new drivers and actors that can play their part in rebuilding society. 

A refreshed relationship

Charities can do more than providing services on behalf of government, or campaigning for change. We think charities can be a vital source of intelligence and innovation in local areas and on issue-specific social needs. The government could benefit from charities’ knowledge and experience to inform and support government policy to rebuild our economy and social fabric.  

Yet this role remains underused by both government and charities alikeWe need a refreshed relationship where we share ideas and work together to repair our social and economic fabric. It may well require the social sector to prioritise those areas of it which are most vital to our social and economic recovery over the coming decade. 

A whole-society approach

National policy to respond to, and rebuild after, Covid-19 has mostly been compartmentalised into different sectors. Local authorities, charities, and businesses have tended to independently call for, and receive, policy and funding support for their own sector.  

Although this one-to-one relationship between government and sectors has been effective in securing more immediate specific ‘wins’ for someit will not be enough to fill the longer-term social or economic needs created or made worse by Covid-19. We need a whole-society approach to rebuilding our social and economic fabric, with government incentivising different sectors, including businesses and charities, to be part of the social response. 

We’d be keen to hear what you think the priorities should be and what this new relationship should look like, comment below.

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