Civil society ‘weakest in most disadvantaged areas’, think tank warns

Priority areas of disadvantage in the government’s Levelling Up agenda are blighted by a lack of charitable activity compared to more affluent areas, research has found.

There is a third less charitable activity in these areas of disadvantage, which are being targeted for support through Levelling Up funding, compared to more advantaged areas.

This is a situation that is worsening, the research adds, with local charitable activity in priority areas falling between 5% and 6% over the last five years, compared to a 1% drop-in wealthier locations.

The findings have been revealed by think tank New Philanthropy Capital in its report Building Blocks of Growth.

The lack of charity activity in priority areas matters “because the evidence shows civil society can make people and places healthier and improve their education and skills – key building blocks of the local economic growth at the heart of the Levelling Up agenda”, states NPC.

“We need greater support for civil society as an engine of growth if we are to truly tackle regional inequalities across the UK.”

Better targeting

The launch of targeted social investment zones is among improvements being called for.

These would work in parallel with the 12 investment zones announced in regions including the East Midlands, North East and Greater Manchester. Backed by “£1.2bn in funding they should offer targeted support and Gift Aid incentives to “allow civil society to flourish”.

This funding should be from a newly set up ‘social investment fund’ made up of levelling up and dormant asset money.

Setting up a national framework for tackling inequality to run alongside these zones is another recommendation.

These would identify local ‘hotspot areas’ of inequality where funding should be targeted and where decision making around how it is spent is devolved to local areas. In addition, charity ‘interventions’ should be trialled to tackle inequality and “wherever possible” these programmes should be built on existing initiatives.

“Tackling inequalities requires a coordinated and long-term approach which includes civil society as a key partner,” states NPC’s report.

“Time and again we heard in our research how efforts to tackle social issues and inequalities in communities were stymied by a combination of systemic issues.

“These included: short-term funding cycles and competitive bidding pots, leading to organisations cannibalising each other; a lack of strategic and evidence driven approaches to tackling issues long-term; and an absence of local knowledge involved in targeting funding.”

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

How is the food and agricultural crisis affecting charity investment portfolios?
Charity Times editor, Lauren Weymouth, is joined by Jeneiv Shah, portfolio manager at Sarasin & Partners to discuss how the current pressures placed on agriculture and the wider food system is affecting charity investment portfolios.

Better Society