Jenny Bloomfield: Celebrating 20 years of voluntary sector campaign success

SCVO are publishing a book celebrating 20 years of voluntary sector campaign successes, to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Parliament. ASPA committee member and SCVO Senior Policy Lead Jenny Bloomfield reflects on those successes here. 

When you think about the great legislative strides made by the Scottish Parliament – for example, on Equal Marriage, the Right to Roam, the Smoking Ban – volunteers and charities have often been at the forefront of fighting for that change.

The public affairs work that the sector carries out across Scotland and the rest of UK has been effective, rigorous and, very often, life-changing.

For example, thanks to the work of two leading charities, the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018 will soon allow all people diagnosed with a terminal illness to access certain benefits under special rules. These rules will ensure quick access, no face-to-face assessments, and qualification for the highest amount of award. 

This is different from the rest of the UK, where only people expected to die within six months qualify.

This change was brought about by concerted lobbying from two charities – Marie Curie Scotland and MND Scotland. 

Their work means that, from 2020, people across Scotland will benefit from the public affairs work of these two and their supporters. Thanks to them, people who have longer-term conditions which are still terminal will be able to access the benefits under the more dignified rules.

This is just one example of the great work we found when researching campaigns for our book. 

Interestingly, Charities, Scotland & Holyrood: Twenty Years Delivering Change also shows a preponderance for success when voluntary organisations work together – creating a bigger reach across constituencies, speaking with one voice to parliament and government. Not always easy to do, perhaps, but there is undoubtedly a lesson there for all public affairs practitioners. If allies in public, private and the voluntary sector can find a way to collaborate then we will have a greater chance of achieving shared objectives.

Lobbying often gets a bad name, but the truth is that public affairs can make a real difference. By making sure legislation passed by our parliament takes into account wider voices in our society, we ensure communities and our environment have the support they need to be the best they can. 

Charities, Scotland & Holyrood: Twenty Years Delivering Change will be launched by SCVO on 4th June. For more information, please contact jenny.bloomfield@scvo.org.uk.

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