Charities: Appeals — Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:06 pm on 8th July 2009.

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Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative 3:06 pm, 8th July 2009

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they will take to prevent charities from sending cash through the post with appeal letters.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, during this difficult time the Government are supporting the third sector's work in promoting best practice through the Institute of Fundraising's codes and self-regulation through the Fundraising Standards Board. The Codes of Fundraising Practice outlaws members from using direct mail enclosures, such as coins, that generate a guilt response. If self-regulation should fail, the Charities Act 2006 contains a reserve power for government to intervene.

Photo of Baroness Trumpington Baroness Trumpington Conservative

My Lords, may I thank the Minister for that reply and say how nice it is to see the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, back? I wish her a long stay and short answers.

If the Government have the power to stop this objectionable practice, why do they not use it? Would it be legal for me to put money into an envelope and send it to people with a begging letter?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her kind welcome. I will try to be short on both counts. Would it be legal for her to send cash through the post with a begging letter? I would not advise her to do it, but it would not be illegal. I know that the noble Baroness is a national treasure, but she is not a national charity.

The noble Baroness is right on her second point: the clock is ticking for self-regulation on these annoying practices. Not enough charities are yet demonstrating best practice through becoming members of the Fundraising Standards Board, and if the Government have to bring in a reserve power in 2011, we may well do that.

Photo of Lord Archer of Sandwell Lord Archer of Sandwell Labour

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend and assure her that we enjoy hearing her voice, for however long. Can she tell the House the estimated effect of the recession on charitable donations and resources?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend; it is wonderful to be back in the wacky world of the Whips' Office. The charities have been recently polled and 50 per cent said that they have felt the impact of the recession. At present, not enough consistent evidence is available to evaluate the impact of the downturn on the sector, but the Government take very seriously the difficulties that many third-sector organisations face during the recession. That is why we have come up with the £42.5 million package announced in Real Help for Communities.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson for International Development, Spokesperson for Wales

My Lords, it is a privilege to come in on this Question. What steps were taken by the Government to meet the collapse of the Icelandic bank? We are told that around £100 million was invested by these charities in that particular bank? Will the Government help in any way?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, if charities were involved, I am sure that the Government's action would target those charities as a priority. On the details of the action taken with the Icelandic bank, I will certainly get back to the noble Lord.

Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Shadow Minister, International Development, Shadow Minister, Foreign Affairs

My Lords, what pressure are Her Majesty's Government putting on the Charity Commission to oppose this procedure, as asked by my noble friend Lady Trumpington?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, the Charity Commission is very much against the procedure that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, has outlined and has advised charities not to do this. The practice of sending gifts or coins through the post is supposed to get a guilt response from people. It is a very annoying and frustrating way of going about building up a good name, as well as funds, for a charity. The commission, the Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Standards Board are all against it.

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

My Lords, nobody would deny that the recession is causing problems for charities, and the package which my noble friend mentioned, the action plan, was very much welcomed by charities. However, does she agree that many charities see the downturn as presenting them with opportunities; for example, some charities in the social enterprise sector and those which require more volunteers as, for all sorts of reasons, more people are available to do that work?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, volunteering is most important. Charities that offer services such as information and advice to vulnerable communities on employment and employability and health and well-being services would all benefit from having more volunteers.

Photo of Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Crossbench

My Lords, are there barriers to charities undertaking joint fundraising, and if so could the Government remove some of those? What is being done to encourage some of the small charities to consider merging when they are competing for funds, often in a very small pool in a small area where it is not cost-effective to have multiple charities operating?

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, I do not know the answer in detail to the noble Baroness's question. The Charity Commission's polling of charities' response to the downturn shows that only 6 per cent of UK charities polled—I think 1,000 charities were polled—said that they would consider a merger and collaboration. However, I will certainly get back to the noble Baroness on that.

Photo of Baroness Crawley Baroness Crawley Government Whip

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Real Help for Communities project was broken down into four different funds. The targeted support funding opened for applications on 1 May. It received 70 applications and is now closed. The modernisation fund had 100 expressions of interest. I think that that is still open. In addition, the future jobs fund and the hardship fund are open for applications of interest. However, I will let the noble Lord know how many are up and running as regards the funding of individual charities.