Policy, Government and the Voluntary Sector, General Election 2024 Resources Hub

Charities find their voices during the General Election

Jay Kennedy, Director of Policy and Research at DSC, takes a closer look at charity campaigns from around the sector.

When the Prime Minister called the general election six weeks ago I have to admit I was relieved: whatever the result, it would put an end to what seemed like endless months of waiting. But I also had a few nagging concerns…

Would charities get drawn into nasty culture war attacks and bad faith press reporting? Would the Charity Commission have to wade in and make fast-tracked decisions with wider ramifications for the sector? Would charities and trustees just seek to keep their heads down for fear of falling foul of the rules and regulations?

Thankfully none of those worries seem to have been realised. The press was mostly focused on other scandals(!) involving some political parties and individual politicians. The Charity Commission did issue some guidance at short notice, which was broadly pretty good.

And there have been some great examples of charities using the opportunity of the General Election to get their messages out and to get politicians to commit to supporting their beneficiaries. At DSC, we’ve been playing our part by explaining the implications and giving you practical actions, and this will continue as the new government is formed and a new parliament takes its place.

Despite the myriad challenges, it’s clear Britain has a strong civil society that we should be proud of. It’s so important that charities and other voluntary organisations are part of the democratic process. Across a huge range of causes and activity, there have been some great examples of charities actively engaging during the campaign. Here are just a few:

Guarantee Our Essentials

The Trussell Trust and Joseph Rowntree Foundation have continued to mobilise the Guarantee Our Essentials campaign, and are trying to get politicians and parties to ensure that Universal Credit covers the cost of basic essentials. They asked people to email parliamentary candidates to get them to sign up to a pledge, and published an open letter to politicians signed by over 200 charities (including DSC) calling for the new Prime Minister to take action on hardship.

Child Poverty

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) works to understand what causes poverty, the impact it has on children’s lives, and how it can be prevented and solved. It responded to the party manifestos and is part of the End Child Poverty Coalition. The Coalition says that 30% of children in the UK are growing up in poverty, and has asked people to contact their prospective parliamentary candidates to put tackling child poverty at the top of the political agenda for the new government.

Healthcare and carers

The NHS and the wider health and social care system were at the heart of the campaign debate, but there has also been welcome attention on unpaid carers, reinforced by the Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey recounting his personal experiences of being a carer. Carers UK have a whole campaign pack, including a manifesto for carers with specific policy demands, and an open letter you can sign to the future Prime Minister, and ways to email prospective candidates.

Marie Curie also put together a manifesto for palliative and end of life care, with a comprehensive ‘campaign toolkit’ complete with a petition to sign, briefings and template letters to contact prospective candidates with.

While mental health hasn’t featured much in the election campaign itself, it does feature in many of the party manifestos, especially in terms of improving things for young people. MIND set out concrete steps it wants the next government to take on mental health, including three simple questions to ask prospective candidates.

The Health Foundation also put out analysis which argued that the next government would need to put an extra £38bn per year into the health service to meet rising care needs and deliver significant improvements in the NHS.

Environmental protection

The Wildlife Trusts put together resources to influence candidates locally, which local organisations have been using. Poor water quality featured highly in many of the party manifestos and organisations like Surfers Against Sewage created a comprehensive ‘let’s turn our rage into change’ election hub with free posters, questions for candidates, a manifesto, and a ‘voters against floaters’ bus tour!

There was a fair amount about renewables in many of the party manifestos too. CPRE, the Countryside Charity, put together a full campaign pack including manifesto, which called for more solar panels on buildings to reduce the impact of solar farms on agricultural land and landscapes.

Refugees and asylum seekers

Issues around immigration and refugees remained high-profile during the campaign, with quite different approaches from the major parties. The Refugee Council exists to support and empower people who have fled conflict, violence and persecution. In its general election campaign it called for the repeal of the Illegal Migration Act and is seeking to sign up 100,000 people to a campaign to support the fair and human treatment of asylum seekers.


There was no shortage of campaign action on many different types of transport issues too. Cycling UK produced a ‘Freedom to Move’ manifesto with calls to action for candidates on active travel and planning reform. The charity Living Streets called for ‘child friendly streets’ in its manifesto, with the aim of getting 60% of primary school children walking to school by the end of the decade.

The Community Transport Association (CTA) believes everyone should have access to local transport which meets their needs. It published a manifesto which calls for a  new partnership between government and the community transport sector to combat poverty and inequality and facilitate access to the health system.

Civic engagement

There were many examples of charities contributing more to civic engagement in different ways, whether it was the Institute for Fiscal Studies analysing the political parties’ tax and spending plans, or Citizens UK promoting voter registration.

Across the country, local charities have been engaging with prospective parliamentary candidates and many local organisations with premises, such as churches and other faith organisations have been hosting hustings or otherwise facilitating the democratic process.

Now the real work starts

It’s important to remember that much of this work isn’t going to end on 5 July – lots was ongoing anyway and now the real work will begin in earnest to influence the next government and MPs in the next parliament. All the work that has gone before won’t be lost; hopefully it will have prepared the ground for influencing the new crop of politicians.

Even this short tour through just a few charity campaigns shows a huge range of activity across so many different parts of civil society – we’re off to a good start!