Charity leaders give cautious welcome to Labour manifesto

Charity

Charity leaders have cautiously welcomed Labour’s election manifesto but want more detail on how the party’s plans would be put in place. 

The manifesto sets out Labour’s plans for economic growth and stability and aims to create a period of national renewal. 

It makes few direct references to charities but the party promises to work with civil society organisations in the planning and delivery of its ambitions. 

“Government is at its best when working in partnership with business, trade unions, civil society, faith groups, and communities,” it says. 

“Labour will seek involvement from industry, trade unions, and civil society in our plans for growth, so they can contribute to building a stronger economy in all parts of the country,” it goes on to say. 

The party promises to consult businesses, workers and civil society organisations on how to put its plans into practice before legislation is passed. 

The manifesto pledges to work with voluntary sector organisations to tackle issues including child poverty and to reduce reoffending. 

The manifesto also sets an ambition of doubling the size of the UK’s co-operative and mutuals sector, which would include working with organisations to address the barriers they face, such as accessing finance. 

In January, Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, told an audience of voluntary sector leaders that charities were “essential” to his party’s plans for a decade of national renewal. 

The manifesto includes Labour’s intention to end VAT relief for private independent schools, many of which are registered as charities. 

Clare Mills, director of policy and communications at the Charity Finance Group, said it was positive to see the Labour Party “recognising the potential of our sector in supporting the delivery of essential public services as well as community development and social cohesion”.

She said: “It is particularly positive that there is specific recognition that civil society has a key role to play in helping to build a stronger economy. 

However, there is little detail on how Labour would work to develop their relationship with civil society, to ensure that our sector’s expertise and connections across all communities could contribute to social change.

“We will be looking to develop a constructive relationship between our sector and whoever forms the next government.

Gideon Rabinowitz, director of policy and advocacy at the NGO membership body Bond, welcomed Labour’s commitment to restoring the UK aid budget to 0.7 per cent of gross national income but said a realistic timeframe was needed to make this meaningful.

“Any incoming government should commit to urgently increasing the UK aid budget and target places where it is most needed, focusing on poverty alleviation in lower-income countries,” he said. 

“We also appreciate the clear commitment to uphold human rights, international law, and maintain UK membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Rabinowitz said Bond would like to see the next government appoint a permanent Cabinet-level minister for international development, “overseeing a fully resourced UK aid budget with a leadership role in promoting cross-government coherence on international development”.

Vic Rayner, chief executive of the National Care Forum, an association for not-for-profit social care providers, said Labour’s vision to create a National Care Service to underpin the provision of care alongside commitments around pay for care workers were “core ambitions for a future government”. 

She said: “They provide a central framing for reform which, if implemented, could place the needs of people who need care and support, the care workforce and the wider sector at the heart of communities.

“However, there is real concern that the urgency for reform is not picked up in this manifesto. 

“An incoming Labour government should be under no illusion that this is an agenda for the here and now, not for a future parliament.

But Sarah Woolnough, chief executive of the health think tank The King’s Fund, said the Labour manifesto “largely dodges the issue of social care reform”. 

“The promises on social care reform could best be described as a plan to come up with a plan,” she said. 

“The current social care system in England is not fit for purpose and many people’s needs go unmet, yet it is one of the most over-looked and ignored policy challenges in recent decades.”

“Labour’s plan for a fair pay agreement for care workers would help attract more people to work in the sector, but unless that increase in pay is matched with commensurate increases in local government funding, it will further squeeze already strained care provider and local council budgets.”

Paul Carberry, chief executive of Action for Children, urged Labour to think again on its “cruel two-child limit and benefit cap policies”.

Richard Kramer, chief executive of the disability charity Sense, said: “We’ve now seen the manifestos from the major political parties and it’s hugely disappointing to see so little mention of disabled people and the issues that matter to them.

“Sadly, this won’t surprise disabled people, who feel overlooked and forgotten – many struggling to afford the essentials or get the right care and support.

“Disabled people make up 22 per cent of the UK population, and it’s critical that politicians seeking election acknowledge them and the issues they face.”

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