Three years after a Third Sector Strategy was developed, a stalwart of Guernsey's charitable community says the States are overlooking the vital work done by volunteers across island life.
Malcolm Woodhams, Chairman of the Association of Guernsey Charities, says there has been an increase in the amount of red tape which charities and non-profit organisations have to negotiate - despite offers of support to meet the demands of data protection and other administrative tasks.
Mr Woodhams says the States should be recognising the true value that local charities and community projects bring to the island.
He says the Association of Guernsey Charities, which represents more than 350 Bailiwick organisations, is concerned that charities are being overlooked at a time when the island is increasingly reliant on the third sector and the goodwill of volunteers.
“It is now three years since local charities collectively conveyed their opinions and concerns about the sector. However, there has been little, if any, progress on certain significant priorities," said Mr Woodhams.
"We all clearly recognise that there has been considerable additional pressure upon governments over the past two years through the pandemic and that time and focus has been needed to prioritise other urgent work.
"However, the charity sector is feeling the conflicting effects of increasing demand for services, significant reduction in income, greater difficulty attracting people to help and growing administrative and bureaucratic requirements."
Pictured: The Association of Guernsey Charities represents the interests of hundreds of organisations.
The Third Sector Strategy was published in January 2019. It was developed through consultation with a variety of charities. It highlighted a number of priorities focused around five key areas: leadership, governance and transparency, charitable giving, volunteering and government-commissioned services.
The Strategy covers organisations within society and the economy which do not come under any public services provided by the States or businesses. The Association says these services and organisations are vitally important in ensuring a "strong, robust and healthy community sector" and they have a "positive impact" throughout the Bailiwick. But it says there has been no action by the States on the Third Sector Strategy since it was published.
Mr Woodhams says the pandemic highlighted how Guernsey can work together, an attribute already in abundance the third sector.
“We must not lose sight that the local third sector is something in which everyone can be incredibly proud, in terms of its size and commitment to providing help, support and action in a wide range of sectors throughout the community," he said.
"There are many thousands of people in Guernsey who already generously give some of their time to volunteer their help towards an incredible range of projects. When people work together in this way, there are so many benefits – it is the essence of a healthy community spirit which has, over the past couple of years, been encapsulated in the slogan Guernsey Together."
Pictured: Malcolm Woodhams, the Chairman of the Association of Guernsey Charities.
Mr Woodham thinks the States understand the vital importance of the third sector but also that the heavy burden charities are facing is routinely overlooked.
“Politicians and other leaders frequently reflect on the value of community spirit and reference the many people who contribute by volunteering.
"However, the reality is that some of our valuable local charities are struggling to raise the money they require to meet their operational requirements. Over the past year, we have also learned that some charities cannot find people to help with their administration and other tasks.
“Sadly, despite the more positive communications from the current government and assurances made last year that there would be some progress and concrete support for the third sector, instead of helping the charitable sector the pendulum has swung the other way and there are increasing amounts of administration and bureaucracy, including greater charity regulation and registration rules, data protection requirements and income tax bureaucracy.
"We accept that some of this is necessary and unavoidable but we had expected that there would be measurable progress in other areas of our strategy to offset these obstacles.
“In our opinion, there is an opportunity for government to create a valuable and lasting foundation designed to increase greater community awareness and social activity.
"Over time, this will ensure a society where everyone is empowered and motivated to actively participate and make a difference to causes about which they are passionate.
"As our demographic changes, it is vital that future generations are aware of, and engaged with, the wider community. Allowing better and innovative funding opportunities and making it easier and more tax efficient for anyone to support local good causes will also help the third sector to flourish.”
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