Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Thursday, 20 November 2014

At the Daily Mail and ACEVO's Annual Conference

It isn't often that I'm seen in the offices of the Daily Mail! But I was there this morning, talking to "London Live" - the new TV channel for Londoners. I was there to talk about the new ACEVO Manifesto for the 2015 Election, which is launched today at our Annual Conference. A taster appeared in today's Times, from Whitehall Editor Jill Sherman.

Last night we held our Annual Dinner at the Millennium Hotel in Gloucester Road. We had the pleasure of Rob Wilson as our guest speaker, the relatively new Civil Society Minister. Rob praised our new Manifesto (or at least the bits he liked, which seemed to be a lot). 

"Free Society" sets out a costed and implementable 36 point plan for change. As the subtitle says, its policies are designed to "realise the nation's potential through the third sector". We argue the case for entrenching the right of civil society to campaign in legislation. In a new bill of rights for example. We make the case for reforming public services through a Citizens Charter of Community Rights and the need for a preferred provider policy across public services - that provider being the third sector, not the State. And we argue for fines made through the fraudulent actions of bankers to go into the charity sector in a new £470m Community Sustainability Fund, as the Independent on Sunday reported last weekend.

Today we've been at the QE2 centre in Westminster for our Annual Conference of charity and social enterprise Leaders - the country's biggest such gathering

Speakers have ranged from Will Hutton (Chair of our "Remaking the State" Commission), Tim Smit of the Eden Project and  Stella Manzie CBE, one of the UK's most senior and experienced local government officials . Next up is Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission. 

So now, back to the Conference floor. I'll have more on all of this tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Charity Commission: openness, not 'zero tolerance' machismo

This morning’s Times carried my letter responding to Monday’s story about the Charity Commission and Muslim charities. A frankly terrifying piece that seemed to frame an independent report criticising the Commission’s effectiveness into a news story impugning the integrity of Muslim Charities themselves.

Whilst we can’t rule out the theoretical risk of charity funds ending up in the hands of ‘Islamic extremism’– and indeed some Muslim charities referred themselves to the Charity Commission to help audit some of their on-the-ground spending on aid in Syria – it is dangerous and counterproductive to continue attacking Muslim charities as a whole. My letter explains that on the contrary, the UK must make the most of our excellent Islamic charities as our best vehicles for building a common national identity and fostering leadership and purpose in Muslim communities to help combat the risk of marginalisation and radicalisation. Here it is:

Sir, I recently met a delegation of Islamic charities, large and small, that help vulnerable people in this country and abroad (“Charities suspected of Muslim extremist links”, Nov 17). Their work is a positive example to people everywhere, whatever their faith. If they are tainted by perception and association, their work is compromised. Ironically, such groups are our best opportunity to create a common sense of belonging and purpose that prevents radicalisation and extremism.

We require openness and sensitivity on these issues, not “zero tolerance” machismo. The Charity Commission must be transparent about how it has reached these decisions and the processes it has undertaken. Trust in charities is important, and that must be complemented by trust in the charity’s regulator. Otherwise we must consider other arrangements.

Sir Stephen Bubb
Chief Executive, ACEVO

Friday, 14 November 2014

Aaronovitch, Leeds and Winterbourne

Another great ACEVO leadership lunch yesterday, this time with Dave Aaronovitch – the well known broadcaster, journalist and Chair of Index on Censorship. I say ‘Dave’ – as I knew him when he was one. But as he said when he got to 28 it became David so he always knows if someone calls him Dave it’s a very old acquaintance. As I said to him, the same applies to me. Only very old friends call me ‘Steve’ (‘Tony calls me Steve’ as a famous Guardian profile of me headlined).

But I digress. We had a fascinating discussion on the state of the electorate and likely outcomes in May. As he had said in his Times opinion article that morning, pace Alice in Wonderland, ‘none shall have prizes’ next May. And perhaps the parties don’t even want to win. Very interesting also to hear from Peter Wanless, CEO of the NSPCC and author of the recent inquiry into historic child abuse records at the Home Office. He had been on the BBC the day before having to contradict the PM who had said his report showed there was no cover up. ‘He's wrong’ he said trenchantly. Good for Peter – a fine example of a third sector leader speaking truth to power.

Earlier in the week I was at the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board for an ACEVO regional forum; a chance for our Chief Executives to get together to network and share. As is so often the case, thoughts were much around problems on governance and money. Interesting to speak to Liz Bradbury who runs a superb outfit that supports young and old with practical companionship and a raft of services, as well as running a service for people with learning disabilities. We had a chat about my recent work on the Winterbourne report. Indeed another member there talked to me about how they are setting up a new community facility, with social finance support, to enable people to move out of hospital and back into the community.

The report of my steering group on Winterbourne is now finished. Our last meeting has taken place, and the report is off to the printers. It will be launched later in the month. We will have to wait to see the recommendations published  and how they are then received. And then the real work begins in implementing what we say.

I get a strong sense of consensus around what we are saying but we will see. And after all a report is only as good as what people do with it. After 3 years of failure to deliver on the pledge to move people from inpatient institutions there is cynicism around whether there will be action. But I’m optimistic. From what I have heard from all those who have taken part and been involved there is a strong sense that we can now move forward on an action plan for change. We shall see.

But before we get to that launch its the ACEVO Annual Dinner and Annual Conference next week. We will have a rather splendid document to launch.... but I'm not saying on what. And our guest speaker will be old friend Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities of Government. And we are overflowing with guests like Francis Maude MP, Simon Stevens, Will Hutton, Lady Smith, Lord Wood, and our Minister Rob Wilson MP. But the stars will of course be the charity and social enterprise CEOs!

Thursday, 13 November 2014

NHS and charities!

Two weeks ago Simon Stevens published the NHS Five Year Forward View, a high-level strategy document on the future of the NHS. A couple of days later Andy Burnham reiterated his stance that the NHS should be the ‘preferred provider’ of health services, in an interview with HSJ.
Both positions mention the voluntary sector and profess its value. But theres little hard policy to say how exactly we’ll establish good partnerships with heath commissioners. Enter ACEVO and our new ‘Working in Partnership’ report, published with the Central Southern Commissioning Support Unit.
Our report sets out seven principles to break down the barriers to partnership working between health and social care commissioners and the voluntary sector:
1. Sustainability - Organisations should seek to build partnerships through jointly committing leadership time and resource to understanding each other’s operating environments and contexts.
2. Transparency - Organisations should be open with each other and clear about the purpose and benefits of the partnership for partners, patients and the public.
3. Joint Vision - Organisations should share their vision and plans as early as possible so that they can identify synergies and opportunities to develop a joint partnership vision.
4. Joint Capability - Organisations should seek to enhance each other’s capability through, for example, knowledge transfer or the joint provision of services.
5. Proportionality - Both partners should be equal in the partnership but should be proportionate in their requirements of each other.
6. Innovation and improvement - Organisations should seek to share, develop and implement innovative solutions.
7. Accountability and governance - Be clear about how decisions are taken within each organisation and within the partnership. Agree how you will hold each other to account.
This is excellent progress. Now we need health commissioning units across the country to take these principles on board. ACEVOs 2015 Election Manifesto - which we publish very shortly - devotes much attention to this area and will give the political parties food for thought. Ill have more on this next week...

Monday, 10 November 2014

Helen and Douglas House, Cecily and doomed youth

So Saturday was the annual charity Christmas card sale in Charlbury and the Hound and I popped in to help our favourite local charity; Helen and Douglas House, the very first children's hospice based in Oxford. It has a link with my favourite London church , All Saints, Margaret St and the head of the Sisters of All Saints was the founder. They have since moved from Margaret St and set  the mother house in Oxford and the hospice was developed in the extensive grounds of the nuns place there. I'm a great fan of charity shops in general but my favourite has to be their shop in Chipping Norton. Practically all of my curtains come from there; probably Jeremy Clarkson's cast offs, and its always a treasure trove of interesting gifts. So it was a pleasure to support them.

And while on the subject let me mention another very local charity, Cecily's Fund,set up in Stonesfield, the next village South of Charlbury and now based in Witney. It was established in 1995 in memory of Cecily Eastwood who died tragically in a road accident in Zambia whilst working with children orphaned by AIDS. The charity now supports over 8000 orphaned kids and helps them to attend school and to train as teachers and health educators. 

The weekend was rounded off by the events of Remembrance Sunday. I went to the Royal Albert Hall for a memorial performance of Britten's War Requiem. The singing was magnificent; as you would expect form the Royal Choral Society with my sister Lucy prominent among them. As I mentioned to Peter Ainsworth, the Chair of the Big Lottery Fund who was also there that it's rather good having a sister with a superb voice, slightly better than mine indeed and useful at Bubb weddings, funerals etc.
Britten's work is set around the Latin Mass and the poems of Wilfred Owen: "Doomed youth" sums up the dreadful slaughter of youth in the Great War, my great Uncle Vivian included.

Caption. Can you spot sister Lucy?  All the proceeds from the concert are going to Veterans Aid, who are ACEVO members! And that it's being broadcast on Classic FM 8pm on Tuesday 11th November!

And finally a visit to see the poppies in the moat at the Tower. A quite extraordinary sight.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Its 62 and going strong

I've always thought that today's big fireworks shows are in honour of my birthday today but Guy Fawkes usually steals the show. I wonder if his example of upsetting the establishment has influenced my career? 

Of course 62 is no age these days. As my team reminded me Disraeli became PM at 70 and Gladstone formed his 4th administration at 84. So you will be seeing much more of Bubb in his 6th decade. Joy!

I usually take the day off for my birthday but this year its not exactly worked out that way. We are finalising the Winterbourne report so it can be launched at end November ( it needs first to be put in easy read) and I have various meetings on social finance and our new leadership programme.

But don't feel too sorry for me. Its lunch at the Ivy and dinner at the Shard. Reaching 62 needs to be celebrated in style. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

European Networks

In Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, for the biannual conference of the European network " Future for religious Heritage".  It's a network of organisations dedicated to preserving and using the great heritage of religious buildings across Europe. ACEVO member Crispin Truman, who runs the Churches Conservation Trust is a leading member and he asked me to make the keynote address to the conference wearing my double angled hat ( tricorn perhaps?) of Euclid and ACEVO.

We were meeting at the Francke Foundation, established over 300 years ago by a famous theologian August Francke as a home and school for orphans.  At it's peak it was home to some 2600 children and the massive complex and impressive ancient buildings are still standing today.  Halle is the birthplace of Georg Freidrich Handel.  There is an interesting link because Handel knew and liked the work of the foundation and became close friends in London with Thomas Coram giving him much of the money to establish the Foundling Hospital.  An orphanage we now know as Cora; a charity still going strong to this day and partly funded through the generosity of Handel and the manuscripts and copyrights he gave them.  He was clearly inspired by the example of the Halle orphanage, which had become famous across Germany.

The Fraancke Fondation, though suffering at the hands of the Communists of East Germany, is still a major force in civil society; a hub for academe, schools and homes for old people and offices for many civil society organisations.  As it says in its mission, it wants to provide people from all walks of life with a rounded education and the ability to become social actors.

So it was a neat venue for the subject of my address; the role of civil society in communities and nation, life and the importance of a living heritage, where historic buildings are used as centres for community action.  I followed on from the German Minister of Culture. He stayed to listen and I feel sure he was edified by my denunciation of political systems and parties for ignoring the role of civil society. I was stressing the dual role of civil society leaders to both work to deliver much needed services and also to campaign. I didn't talk about knitting- I wasn't sure it would translate.

You can be sure I made reference to the historic link with Handel (not to mention the Hanoverian 300 year anniversary) and so it was incumbent on me to visit the house where he was born. 

I also popped into the Church where he was baptised and later learnt to play the organ.  That self same organ is still there and in use today.  Indeed when I went in, it was playing Handel, obviously as there is an active Handel society in Halle. 

Meanwhile back in Blighty we have had the results of the transforming rehabilitation programme. A mixed message. 

We are pleased to see that the Ministry of Justice recognises the central role of charities and social enterprises can play in delivering services, especially their expertise in prevention.

However, their are still flaw in this commissioning model.  The contracts needed to be more locally based, and the barriers to entry for charities to take prime contracts were too high.  Whilst it is good news that we play a large role in sub-contracting, we wanted to see charities and social enterprises in the driving seat of the primes, which has not happened.

As we saw in the Work Programme, when large private companies sub-contract to charities or social enterprises, this can often overload smaller charitable organisations with risk and cause financial strain. Government must continue to learn from past mistakes and look to innovative ways of ensuring charities can work in partnerships to contribute quality outcomes.  

The third sector must never be subservient to the interest of private companies, rather then the communities we serve.