It's time for a Civil Society Minister30 Apr 2018
We believe in Jersey’s potential to be a benchmark for a modern compassionate community. At the heart of this are our charities and community groups and those people who give up their time, energy and expertise to help others. In our island community we rely heavily on the services of our charities; the social benefits of voluntary action are well known and the sector contributes much to the economy as employers, service providers, and early interventionists that save tax payers millions of pounds. It is essential, therefore, that the development of civil society is high on the agenda of the States Members we are about to elect.
Our ‘State of the Sector’ survey revealed that there are more than 535 voluntary and community organisations active in Jersey, generating in excess of £80m annually. More than 11,000 islanders volunteer their time for charity. These numbers are sure to rise with the advent of Charities Law and the charities register which opens on 1st May. The Law will put in place a framework that will enable our charities to flourish and will encourage the growth of the philanthropic environment. Given all this, surely it is time for a Civil Society Minister within the ranks of government?
So, what would we like to see from the candidates standing for election this year?
1. Support for the sector
A charity champion. Someone who understands the challenges we face and will work towards creating a more resilient and sustainable sector. Someone who will transform the relationship between the State and the sector. Give civil society issues a louder voice and encourage not-for-profits to speak out and take action on the issues that are important to Jersey.
2. Encourage giving
More needs to be done to motivate donors to give and make it easier to give. Tax reliefs demonstrate the value government puts on the public interest, to forgo tax revenue on, and currently this level is shockingly low. Reforming the way tax is reclaimed on charitable donations and the reliefs available to charities should be top priorities for any candidate.
3. Build trust
Push for constant improvement in the fairness, transparency and access to regulation of our charities. We are decades behind other jurisdictions in this area, with our charities law only in force this year. Regulation of these entities is on the distant horizon. Dedicating more resource and funding for civil society development as well as pushing for greater demonstration of good governance will build trust in the sector.
4. Grants, Commissioning and SPOCs
Look at the most effective ways in which we contract with the States. One size does not fit all. Where outcomes-based commissioning is appropriate then develop those models; when grant-making is best (particularly for small charities without the corporate resources to compete fairly with large charities, and when lesser amounts are involved) invest in these mechanisms. And for the innovative candidates, we would encourage taking a good look at how SPOCs (Single Point of Contact) are working in local authorities in the UK – creating clusters of charities working together to deliver on outcomes.
So, to all the hopeful candidates out there, please tell us why you should be elected based on your commitments to the charity sector. What will you do to ensure a thriving civil society?
To all of the charitable and community organisations, please encourage your supporters to challenge the candidates about what they would do about issues important to them and encourage them to vote on May 16th.