Brexit left us reeling - but now we must fight for our sector

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Maggie Lennon says post-Brexit, the third sector faces a fight for its future

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24th June 2016 by TFN Guest 2 Comments

There hasn’t been much consensus around this referendum. That Scotland would vote remain, and that, in Scotland the impact on the third sector of Leave would be particularly damaging, are about the only two I can think of.

While I’m delighted that the first has come to pass, like many of you, I’m reeling that we have voted to leave the EU.

But shock and tears (and I’ve suffered from both today) only get us so far. As a sector we must unite as never before and send a very clear message to the Scottish Government that we now task them with doing everything in their power to protect us and make good on the policy statements that identify us as a crucial partner for service delivery in Scotland.

The biggest risks now is that the crucial EU funding tap is turned off and that the level of support that may get sent to Scotland via Westminster in some sort of replacement British Structural Funds (if that’s even an option) might be very much lower than the generous re-distribution we currently get. Scotland contributes 8% to the total UK spend TO Brussels but gets back 18% of the total spend BACK to the UK.

Maggie Lennon

Maggie Lennon

Scotland sent a clear message to the UK - let’s build on that and find our voice and common cause for our own sector

And money aside, there is now a real danger of an erosion of key workers and human rights, especially around rights for temporary and part-time workers, women’s and parental rights and disability rights. And for a sector which has a disproportionate amount of staff on part time temporary contracts and employs many women and disabled workers, things might start getting very difficult for our staff.

The third sector, more than ever, is intimately caught up in delivering services that at one time lay solidly within the public sector. Yet our staff don’t have the job security, the pay, packages or pensions the public sector have long taken as a right.

We are in many ways the poor cousins. So much funding is project and outcome based that there’s little left over for core costs, overheads or staff who are not on the front line.

So we don’t have the IT systems we might or the back office and admin support our big cousins can boast, and sometimes that makes it harder for us to be successful in tortuous public procurement situations.

So on the basis of every situation, however bleak, providing an opportunity, perhaps this is the opportunity we have to re-negotiate our relationship with the Scottish Government, while helping them negotiate more powers to Scotland. So here’s my wish list:

1. Irrespective how you feel about independence or greater devolution we should support the Scottish Government in any effort to secure more powers especially of that will benefit revenue, so the sector should support FULL fiscal autonomy as a start.

2. Require the Scottish Government to open up procurement processes or develop procurement processes that are more suitable for relevant to smaller organisations.

3. Offer wherever possible to three or five year funding streams and allow full cost recovery in funding models to support company development and sustainability.

4. Build into funding provision for third sector to pay the living wage and provide pensions and other in work benefits.

5. Require the Scottish Government to get an agreement as early as possible and long before the current ESF funding runs out in 2018 of what monies we will get to replace structural funds and research grants and to ensure that there are no cuts, including insisting on Barnet Formula consequential payments of large sums are spent on NHS in England or other England based infrastructure projects.

6. Lobby for all employability legislation and Equality legislation to be fully devolved to Scotland so that without interference from Westminster our laws can continue to comply with EU law which it must do  under the terms of the Scotland Act.

It’s not very sexy and I’m not calling for any manning of the barricades…. at least not yet. But Scotland sent a clear message to the UK in the early hours of 24 June so let’s build on that and find our voice and common cause for our own sector.

Maggie Lennon is director of The Bridges Programme.

27th June 2016 by JoolsBell55

The subject of my recent resolution delivered at the sNP conference - treating the Third Sector seriously as a key partner, with properly-transitioned services, sustainable funding and professional respect, not a dumping ground for that which cooncils will no longer deliver because of austerity. Maximising innovation, creativity and person-centred services, empowering and liberating service users and freeing staff to deliver meaningful and valued work. Time to email it to HQ as a reminder...

28th June 2016 by Ian Davidson

An excellent "shopping list" by Maggie Lennon!