Are you ready for the new UK?

It is difficult to advise charities how to plan for Brexit or no Brexit, with or without a deal. Nobody knows how things will turn out, and charities generally steer clear of politics anyway. Most of us have no idea what a No Deal Brexit would mean. However there must be real concern about the future. How will the economy react? What party will be in government, and what will their policies be around civil society? Will there be grant funding available?

It is now clear that when charities work together great things can happen. NCVO (an umbrella organisation which supports and champions the voluntary sector) reports “The pause in the roll out of universal credit is not simply testament to a new minister listening, but also a civil society speaking, with one voice.” [NCVO Blog entry by Stuart Etherington, 8/1/19]. NCVO also calls for charities to give some thought to what kind of society we want to be after Brexit is finally sorted out. We need a vision for the future, which can help us plan for where WE want to be, and how we want to get there.

There are many views of what the different scenarios will mean for the UK, but charities need to consider what they will do if any of them actually happen. What will you do if the worst-case scenario happens, the economy collapses completely due to lack of trade agreements, and many, many more of the population are living in poverty? On the other hand, what will you do if Brexit is pulled completely, we remain in the EU and everything reverts to where it was two to three years ago, with large grants available, qualified staff available from other countries and the associated problems we were dealing with before? Think of the other scenarios in between – how will you finance your services if grants are no longer available? – What demand for your services do you think there will be? – What will happen if the NHS becomes entirely privately financed? Will your charity need to consider helping the poor to access basic health services?

Whatever happens in the next months, charities will be needed to help build a strong society and heal the breaches caused by the Brexit process. We need to work together, to solve problems together and to be there when we are needed. There is a movement (the Gross National Happiness Index) which says that finance should not be the measure against which we check how well we are doing. Health, happiness and quality of life is far more important to those advocating this, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measures none of those things. Perhaps charities should be the starting point for measuring success against quality of life? Should we write our plans for the future using happiness as our measure of success?