How can housing providers know they are making a difference? Former Number 10 policy supremo Dan Corry is the man to tell them. Martin Hilditch reports
Dan Corry, chief executive of think tank and consultancy New Philanthropy Capital, has been in the job for less than a year but he is clearly already used to delivering challenging messages.
NPC dedicates its time to helping funders and charities make the greatest possible difference, based both on research of the issues but also analysis of the social impact that charities’ activities have made.
Mr Corry turns up to the Chartered Institute of Housing’s party today, so the sector had better brace itself for some tough talking. His session (‘Outperforming other sectors - making housing shine’) will look at whether the money, time and effort invested in housing really delivers the impact claimed.
‘We are the ones that come along and say, “Do you know whether you are doing any good?”’ Mr Corry adds.
Mr Corry is used to a challenge himself. As head of the Number 10 Policy Unit and senior advisor to prime minister Gordon Brown on the economy from 2007 to 2010 he was at the eye of the storm as the downturn and (first) recession emerged and then bit.
Today he describes it as ‘a hell of a time’. So how effective does he think the efforts made back then were, with the benefit of hindsight?
‘The government wanted to do everything it could to try to keep the economy going and try to minimise the number of repossessions,’ he recalls. ‘To some extent, looking back, I think it was quite a good effort in trying to make the government machine do that. On the whole in 2010 the economy was just about muddling along.’
The ongoing impact of the double-dip recession is obviously still being felt by charities and the housing sector. Days after we speak NPC publishes a new report outlining how two thirds of charities are cutting front line services and that nearly one in 10 risks closing down entirely in the next year.
‘The contracts are getting tougher,’ Mr Corry states. ‘There is a lot more payment by results, which is difficult for charities. Most charities can’t manage the payment only turning up three years’ later, with a risk factor.’
Local government, which is clearly also under the financial cosh, is making cuts that it may look back on with regret, Mr Corry implies. He talks about a recent chat with a ‘local government leader’ who said he was worried he may end up with few services provided by local groups and charities. Mr Corry says the leader was worried he might look back in 10 years’ time and think: ‘Oh my God, what did I do?’
As today’s session is likely to discuss, one way for providers to ensure councils and other funders continue to hand over vital cash is to have a clear understanding of the impact their actions have on the communities they serve.
‘If we had gone back 10 years and said to charities “you need to be measuring your impact a bit better” they would have said “we know we are doing good, measuring it is a waste of time”,’ he adds. ‘I don’t think most charities any more would say it is somehow wrong to get a handle on what they are achieving.’
Dan Corry on …
The government’s now abandoned plans to drop tax relief for philanthropy
‘You sometimes make mistakes. The best thing to do is back out fast. It has gone down like a lead balloon.’
The work programme
‘Charities don’t like being sub-contractors, particularly to for-profit [organisations].’
The relationship between central government and government departments
‘I think most departments wish that Downing Street would bugger off and leave them alone - that goes for the politicians and the civil servants.’