In recent elections it has been harder for charities to campaign and make an impact due to restrictions set out by the Lobbying Act. Many in the sector feel that charities have been stifled by the Lobbying Act in this election. But perhaps the expectations of young people, who have proved themselves to be an important demographic in this election, can help charities to get their voices heard.
Recently, over 50 charities wrote to political parties to underline their “deep concerns” about the effect of the Lobbying Act on charity campaigns. The Lobbying Act sets out the rules for non-party campaigners undertaking public campaign activities in the regulatory period in the run up to elections. There is concern across the sector that this has caused charities to self-censor and stopped them from speaking out on important issues.
We sent a Freedom of Information request to the Electoral Commission and found that they were not investigating any charities during this elections regulated period. This suggests that charities are complying with the regulations, and they are speaking out less as a result. By coupling this situation with our research from June/August 2016 which found that just under ¼ of Conservative MPs think that charities should not campaign in Parliament, it is clear to see that it is a difficult task for charities to make sure they are heard outside of election periods as well.
However, the recent surge in young voters could provide a solution to this.
Young people have been celebrated as making a big impact in this year’s general election. The turnout among 18-24 year olds is estimated by YouGov to have been 57.5%, which is much higher than previous years (In the 2015 general election the turnout for was 43%).
Politicians will be looking into what motivated young people to vote in this election and how they can appeal to this section of the electorate in the future. Whilst more analysis is sure to come in the future on what motivated young people to vote, it seems that it was not just down to political personalities. Policies on scrapping tuition fees, more NHS funding and a soft Brexit all seem to be important factors. And fortunately for charities, it looks like young people want to see more input for the third sector in the political process.
Making sure that charities are consulted on future policies should be a high priority for politicians who want to engage with this demographic, according to Andrew O’Brien. In an article for the Guardian, he points to research by ComRes that shows that 41% of 18-24 year olds think that the government should consult charities and civil society groups when deciding future policies. This is higher than any other age group. O’Brien argues that as a result, parties need a strong message on charities to attract and maintain the support of younger voters – which could help to mitigate the stifling effects of the lobbying act.
Young voters have made their presence felt by their increased turnout this election. And young people want charities to be consulted on policymaking. Labour, The Liberal Democrats, The Green Party and The SNP all committed to repealing the Lobbying Act during the campaign. This would be a step in the right direction of meeting young voter’s expectations and allowing the voice of the sector to be heard.
Politicians need to ensure that they listen to what young people want, and recognise that consulting charities is an important part of this – or risk being left behind.
If you want to find out more about nfpSynergy’s research with MPs please contact cpm@nfpsynergy. You can also download a briefing pack (scroll down further to the purple download form beneath the 'Share this Resource' buttons). We will be conducting our next wave of research with the new parliament in the coming months.
 nfpSynergy Charity Parliamentary Monitor, 150 MPs, Jun - Aug 2016