• Labour leader to deliver keynote speech, joined by 17 shadow ministers
  • Major summit to be attended by 150 charity leaders
  • Charities vital to solving big issues facing UK today, says PBE
  • New polling shows public agree – they are five times more likely to trust charities than government to understand key issues affecting them
  • Charities being asked to do more than ever, but with £1.7bn less in government funding and significant drop in volunteers
  • Next government needs strategy to unleash sector’s full potential

Sir Keir Starmer will outline his vision for how the charity sector can help deliver Labour’s five missions for Britain in government, as part of a major Pro Bono Economics (PBE) event on Monday (January 22).

The Labour leader will deliver the keynote speech to 150 charity leaders at the Labour and Civil Society Summit in central London and will be joined at the event by 17 shadow ministers, including frontbenchers Wes Streeting, Yvette Cooper and Bridget Phillipson.

It marks the first time in more than a decade that a major party leader in Britain has set out a vision for the charity sector and comes as new polling shows the British public are five times more likely to trust charities, rather than government, to understand the key issues affecting them.

As public services continue to come under mounting strain, the nation’s charities are being asked to do more than ever to support the most vulnerable in society. But in the wake of the pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis, the sector now receives £1.7 billion less in government funding than it did in 2009/10. There has also been a significant drop in volunteers in recent years, with around 4 million fewer regular volunteers in England post-pandemic.

With no clear vision for the sector set out by a political leader since David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ in 2010, PBE is calling for the next government to treat the sector as a strategic partner equal to UK business, rather than simply a lowest-cost provider of public services, in order to unleash its full potential.

A new YouGov poll of the public, conducted for PBE and the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), found that more than a third (36%) of people think that charities are best-placed to understand the issues affecting people in the UK today, more than five times the number of people who think the government is best-placed

Overall, almost six in 10 (59%) adults in the UK think that government should listen more to charities when thinking about the long-term challenges facing the country, with just 5% saying it should listen less.

And nearly a third (32%) think that government should encourage more wealthy people to support charities, while three in 10 (30%) say that charities should be more involved in decision-making.

Matt Whittaker, CEO of Pro Bono Economics, said:

“The UK’s charities are essential to solving the major challenges we face as a country today. They are equally pivotal to both Rishi Sunak’s five pledges as Prime Minister and Keir Starmer’s five missions for a Labour government.

“The public recognise the importance of the sector and have greater faith in the country’s charities than policymakers at present. Our new polling finds that the public are five times more likely to trust charities, rather than government, to understand the key issues affecting them.

“Yet Keir Starmer’s speech today is the first time a political leader in the UK has set out a strategic vision for how the sector can serve as a partner to government since David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ concept in 2010. Since then, the sector has changed enormously and now has a workforce totalling just shy of 1 million.

“While it has grown in size and become ever more vital to supporting the most vulnerable in society, the charity sector has had to deal with £1.7 billion less government funding in real terms and 4 million fewer volunteers over the same period.

“Charities sit at the centre of everything the nation aspires to – from the health of the economy to the quality of life we enjoy. It is vital then that the government which comes to power following the next general election does what it can to help the sector unleash its full potential.”

Image attribution: ©Keir Starmer, Labour Party Conference, Liverpool, UK - 11 Oct 2023 | Flickr