Community voices could face restrictions

Posted in: General News

Rule change could hamper third sector.

New UK Government grant funding rules could restrict the activities of some third sector organisations, Social Justice Secretary Alex Neil has said.

Third sector organisations that receive grant funding from the UK Government could be prevented from trying to influence Parliament, Government or political parties with that funding, through the planned new clause.

The move could affect Scottish third sector organisations receiving UK Government funding and UK-wide charities and voluntary organisations operating in Scotland.

Mr Neil confirmed the Scottish Government has robust controls in place and will not add this clause to its grant offer letters.

He said:

“I will be writing to the UK Government and urging it to consider the serious implications of this new clause and the impact it will have on the third sector.

“In Scotland we recognise third sector and equalities organisations play an important role providing a voice on public policy for communities and we have no intention of adding this clause to our grant offer letters.

“This planned change could make it difficult for some third sector organisation to highlight the issues that are affecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“The Scottish Government will continue to work with stakeholders to take a co-produced approach to the development and implementation of policy and we have appropriate and well-designed controls in place to ensure that public money is spent for approved purposes only.”

John Downie, Director of Public Affairs, SCVO said:

“SCVO does not accept any distinction between campaigning or service organisations. Service delivery provides essential insights into the issues faced by the most vulnerable people in society. It is essential that this is used directly to inform public policy debate and to underpin campaigns run by charities.

“We fundamentally reject the notion that government funds should not be used to resource lobbying, campaigning or informing public policy, voluntary organisations not only have a right to campaign and lobby government but a duty to do so.”

ENABLE Scotland is one third sector organisation expected to be affected by the new rules.

Jan Savage, Executive Director of Campaigns and External Affairs at ENABLE Scotland said:

“The use of unrestricted charitable funds allows us to create a platform for people who have learning disabilities to campaign for what really matters to them. We have campaigned with our members on issues like ‘education for all’ and the ‘closure of long stay institutions’. Our #StoptheBus campaign achieved a significant change for people who have learning disabilities by resolving a policy issue that had seen people with learning disabilities lose their access to a bus pass.

“It was a real victory for people who have learning disabilities, who spoke up and campaigned on an issue that matters to them and is a perfect example of what third sector organisations like ENABLE Scotland can do to improve the lives of others through campaigning.”