Thoughts about the Spending Review

With the Spending Review being announced tomorrow we’ve been reflecting on what the government could do more of. In the run up to last year’s General Election we called upon all political parties to include a number of things in their manifesto’s and future policy commitments. We deliberately focused on overarching policy areas. As these are the ones that we wanted our politicians (of any persuasion) and civil servants to focus their lens on, and we still do. The Covid-19 pandemic has, of course, diverted the government’s attention. But we still think many of these are really important.

These include:

  • Ensure there is affordable, good-quality childcare available
  • Provide early action, wrap-around care for young people
  • Focus on education not testing
  • Invest in Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND) support through the education system
  • Tackle racism and all forms of discrimination
  • Ensure work is decent and well paid
  • Invest in and reform social security
  • Build more social housing, with 25% of all new building developments allocated as social housing
  • Make London affordable and accessible for older people, so reducing isolation and loneliness
  • Welcome refugees
  • Tackle the climate emergency

Not to understate it but it has been quite a year hasn’t it? With the brilliant news of three vaccines and an immunisation programme on the way, national and local government should now be turning their attention back to these important domestic issues. In many ways, by addressing these issues, local communities will be able to recover more quickly from the looming recession.

And so to the role that charities, community groups and the wider civil society should be playing in aiding the recovery and creating a more equal, just and fairer society. The last 8 months has seen immense upheaval, change and developments in the ways in which the social sector has responded to the needs of local communities. We have been adapting, creating, innovating, flexing and reinventing ourselves to better serve those in the community that need support. We’ve more than risen to the challenges that the lockdown restrictions have imposed on local residents. Around three-quarters of charities have experienced a rise in demand for their services through this year. And yet, this crisis has taken its toll on the charitable sector, not least financially. We know the strain that our team has been under. We’ve tried to put in more support for them, but it’s still never quite enough as the demands of the job are acute.

The social sector itself is in a fragile state. Collectively we’ve lost up to 25% of our income this year (c.£12bn) by not being able to fundraise face-to-face. At KLS we are genuinely worried about our finances for next year, as there will be a further reduction in income for the sector as the recession kicks in. A smaller pot only increases the competition. We would encourage the Chancellor to invest more into the social sector, and into local Councils (who really have borne the brunt of austerity for more than a decade). There are some interesting ideas we support about a Community Wealth Fund and using dormant bank accounts, but really it’s significant mainstream investment that is needed. This will aid the economic recovery and ‘levelling up’ so needed in our communities.

Charities and community groups are the backbone of society. We’ve proved our value time and again during this crisis. Over the coming year, there will be a continued rise in the demand for our services. The fallout from isolation, loneliness and mental ill health will further manifest itself. And the challenges before the pandemic have not gone away either. We do need more funding and resources if we are to continue our work, and we hope the Chancellor will provide this tomorrow.

By working together we can achieve more. We’ve seen this exemplified through the pandemic. We are stronger when we work together. We are more effective when we work together. We better serve our communities when we work together. We hope that tomorrow’s spending plans encourages more working together for the common good, the good of us all.

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