Tuesday 11 October 2016

The Future Of Charities in Brexitland

We looked earlier in the year about the likely impact of Brexit on some of The View's key areas of interest. The general mood was bleak but the one main conclusion was: it's too early to say.

For the most part, that's still the case. The trigger-pull of Article 50 is unlikely to be invoked before next spring, which is when the real work starts. But for charities, a new report gives a clearer idea of the role they are to play in this uncertain new Britain.

The Charities Aid Foundation has spoken to politicians from all hues of the political spectrum and a broad swathe of the public to get a better idea of the general mood and how the Third Sector could fit into that. The report that's been generated from all that work, A Stronger Britain: How can Charities build post-Brexit Britain? is a fascinating and surprisingly hopeful read.

There are two main points to take from this new work. Firstly, that Brexit has sparked a new sense of activism and, as a byproduct, folks feel much more inclined to volunteer. In fact, studies show that nine million people are more likely to give up some time for a cause than before the June 23rd vote. They feel the need to channel their sense of anger and hopelessness into something more positive.

The sense of division in the nation at the moment is almost palpable. Families have turned against each other in the aftermath of the vote, and communities are split in twain. But charities, with their real connection to these communities, are in a unique position to help and begin healing the rifts. Again, the study shows that people view the Third Sector much more positively in this regard than in any other way of providing support to neighbourhoods in need.

John Low of the Charities Aid Foundation makes the point clearly:

"Charities are born of their communities and are often best placed to see community division first hand. And the public see a legitimate role for charities to speak up on behalf of those they support. This is why we are calling on local and central government to commission charities to monitor levels of community cohesion, and threat, and to use the proposed British bill of rights to protect the freedom of charities to speak on behalf of their beneficiaries."

In other words, there's a place for charities to become a central part of the mediation process, making sure that ordinary people are not left behind in the race to Brexit. The influence and expertise the Third Sector can bring should not be ignored or minimised. There is an enormously positive and important role for charities in post-Brexit Britain.

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