By Andrew Holt

Charity representative body the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has today launched the UK’s first not-for-profit public affairs consultancy service.

Aimed at charities, the service will help organisations get a foothold in Westminster and Whitehall and help decision-makers better understand the needs of the people they support.

Focussing on strategic advice and training, the service will ensure that public policy is better informed by the experiences of people on the ground.

Charities have a wealth of knowledge about how services are affecting people’s lives and have the expertise to see how changes in public policy could result in better outcomes.

The service will provide advice on how best to influence public policy, build alliances and shape legislation.

It will also provide a range of training packages covering every aspect of engaging with Westminster and Whitehall, whether that be preparing for a select committee appearance or understanding the inner workings of government.

The service complements NCVO’s existing portfolio of charity consultancy services – which provide specialist advice on areas including governance, finance and fundraising, and organisational strategy.

NCVO consultants also work to help public and private sector clients better understand the not-for-profit landscape.

Former civil servant Danny Herbert has joined NCVO from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to head up the new service.

His recent responsibilities include running the appointment process for the Chairman of the BBC Trust and working on the planning of the London 2012 Torch Relay.

He is also an experienced charity trustee, and recently led a campaign against cuts in services for children with autism in Waltham Forest.

Chloe Stables, NCVO’s Parliamentary and media manager,said: "Many charities feel they need to engage with the political system in order to best help the people they work on behalf of, but may lack the confidence, knowledge or resources to do so.

"Big public affairs agencies can seem hard to approach and hard to afford for smaller charities.As a charity ourselves, a core part of whose work is providing advice to other charities, we are in a unique position to provide a service that can help these organisations.

"With nearly two decades’ experience in central government, Danny has a real insight into both the politics and practicalities of Whitehall."

Danny Herbert said: "I’m excited about the potential of this new service. Charities are routinely and rightly at the heart of many political debates.

"They are often the absolute experts on many of the toughest problems politicians try to deal with and can provide advice that’s rooted in reality and valued by politicians.

"We are committed helping them to get their views and those of the people they support across to decision-makers."

NCVO’s own recent public affairs work includes successful lobbying to enhance the Small Charitable Donations Bill for charities, and the Give It Back George campaign which resulted in the Chancellor reversing his 2012 Budget decision to cut tax relief for charity donations.

NCVO also provides the secretariat for the APPG on Civil Society and Volunteering.

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