Category: Charity

Commonwealth Future Luncheon

Lord Sheikh attended and spoke at Commonwealth Future’s luncheon for the launch of their ‘2020 Vision’ campaign to promote eye care and the avoidance of preventable eyesight throughout the Commonwealth. 

Lord Sheikh was pleased to speak about the Commonwealth having grown up in East Africa and visited a number of the 54 countries. Lord Sheikh has in fact led a debate and spoken in the House of Lords several times on the subject of the Commonwealth as it is an enduring symbol of unity and perhaps the greatest of all international associations. 

Lord Sheikh made the point that more can be done to bring Commonwealth countries closer and we need to be innovative and establish new initiatives. One such initiative is the ‘2020 Vision’ campaign by Commonwealth Future. 

Commonwealth Future hopes to equalise the standard of Optometry throughout the Commonwealth and help improve vision through the use of optical aids, which are easier in a volume-based population. They wish to emphasise the importance on human prosperity and equality on correcting one’s sight. Lord Sheikh feels that eyesight is of great importance to quality of life and he in fact has his own foundation which supports charities who perform eye surgeries in developing countries.

The luncheon bought together like-minded guests from prestigious backgrounds who are interested in shaping the future of the Commonwealth.

CIAC Women Volunteer of the Year Awards

On behalf of the Chinese Information and Advice Centre, Lord Sheikh hosted the Women Volunteer of the Year Awards in the House of Lords.

Their work benefits disadvantaged Chinese people in the United Kingdom. Since its formation 37 years ago, the Centre has indeed supported and led on local social, legal and welfare issues.The Centre has also provided invaluable help to people who deserve to be helped and guided.

The Chinese Information and Advice Centre does excellent work in the community and provides a vital service to people. The Centre was the recipient of the 2018 Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This is the highest award given to local volunteer groups across the UK to recognise outstanding work done in their own communities.

Lord Sheikh paid tribute to all the outstanding women who have relentlessly dedicated their valuable time to help the Chinese community.

 

FIRE AID and International Development Conference 2019

The FIRE AID and International Development Conference was held at the London Fire Brigade HQ on 1st November 2019.

The conference was opened by Jim Fitzpatrick MP who is the Chair of FIRE AID. The conference had discussions on the importance of supporting Fire and Rescue Charities, the importance of data and research in post-crash response and working in partnership to improve post-crash response.

FIRE AID is a charity which provides ethical and sustainable donations of fire and rescue equipment and training to over 50 countries across the world.

Lord Sheikh was invited to speak on his experience in Tajikistan when he visited the Republican Fire Service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Tajikistan alongside His Excellency Mr Matthew Lawson, the British Ambassador to Tajikistan to close the latest FIRE AID project.

 

Overseas Aid: Charities and Faith-based Organisations

My Lords, I am pleased to speak briefly in the gap. I begin by saying that I, with my close family and friends, have our own charity, which is entirely funded by us. In addition, I am a patron of two charities. Muslims all over the world believe in helping people who are less fortunate than ourselves. Muslims also believe that we have a moral duty to support charitable organisations through giving our time and resources wherever possible. I am sure everyone agrees there is a great deal of pleasure in giving, as both the donor and the recipient gain satisfaction.

There are many Muslim charities that are based in the United Kingdom. UK Muslims gave over £100 million to charity during the month of Ramadan last year. That is £38 a second. Muslim charities help deserving causes in the United Kingdom and provide support and assistance in overseas countries. Some of these countries have been affected by war; others are affected by famine, climate change or natural disasters. These charities perform splendid work in providing water, shelter and food. They are also involved in helping people to earn a living. I feel that charities should get involved in the education of young people and the training of people generally in order to make them self-sufficient.

I would like to emphasise that Muslim charities help to support and provide aid to non-Muslims as well as Muslims. They support people of all races, colours and religions all over the world. This fact needs to be appreciated, as it sets out the philosophy of the Muslim charities. I have connections to several Muslim charities and know the trustees and senior executives. There are charities that have been doing remarkable work, going back to the early 1980s. It is the faith of the Muslims, and we believe that faith is the fourth emergency service. Individuals have shown a willingness to volunteer time, professionalism and extend friendship. While the giving of charity is part of the Islamic faith, most Muslims will give charity with humility. Muslims believe in discretion, and we feel that the left hand should not know what the right hand gives.

I would also like to state that Muslim charities are the bedrock of their local communities and help whenever there are problems in the UK. For example, after the Grenfell tragedy, Muslim charities played a vital role in helping the people who were affected. I would like to add that at the charities with which I am connected there is proper governance, accountability and transparency in every aspect of their work. These charities have controlled their expenses and put into practice proper safeguards, which are implemented at all times. I was very pleased that a recent event organised with Islamic Relief that I hosted in the House of Lords was attended by the Secretary of State from the Department for International Development and the Minister. DfID has provided support to Islamic Relief under the UK aid match programme. I would like to ask the Minister: is DfID willing to accept applications from suitable Muslim charities for similar support? 

Lord Bates The Minister of State, Department for International Development:

The noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, talked about the generosity of Muslim charities. I attended the wonderful event in the River Room. In one of those amazing juxtapositions, in the space of one week I went from announcing an aid match for the Lent appeal for Christian Aid to doing to the same for CAFOD. I then went to the launch of Islamic Relief, involving zakat. We were UK aid-matching them all. The first time I heard that £100 million had been given in one month by the Muslim community of Britain, I had to double-check it. I thought, “Surely there’s an extra nought on the end”, but the figure is absolutely correct. I do not know why we do not hear more in the media about our British Muslim community. It is the most generous of the faith communities in the United Kingdom and we are incredibly proud of the contribution that it makes to this great country.

Link to full debate on Hansard

Parliamentary Eid Reception

Lord Sheikh hosted Islamic Relief’s Eid Reception in the House of Lords. The reception was held on 26th June 2018 in the River Room of the House of Lords and was very well attended.

Lord Sheikh  mentioned, “Most Muslims all over the world believe in helping people who are less fortunate than themselves. There are many Muslim charities which are based in the United Kingdom. UK Muslims gave 100 million pounds to charities during Ramadan last year. That’s £38 pounds a second.”

Talking about Ramadan, Zakat and Islamic duty, Lord Sheikh also said, “It is compulsory for us to give Zakat. It is of course the third pillar of Islam. We also like to help others. Although Muslims donate to charities at all times, during the month of Ramadan, the contributions tend to be large and generous.”

Penny Mordaunt, MP, Secretary of State for International Development (DFID) was the keynote speaker and wished ‘all a belated Eid Mubarak.’ She said, “I hope you were able to spend the day with your families and loved ones. And that you were able to reflect on the sacrifices you made and the good you have done during the month of Ramadan.”

 

 

China UK International Music Festival Press Conference

Lord Sheikh hosted the China UK International Music Festival press conference for the Chinese Information and Advice Centre.

The China UK international Music Festival involves music competitions, concerts and music workshops to encourage cultural cooperation and communication between the United Kingdom and China. The juries and guests are all of high international reputations and the festival will be one of the highlights of the Sino-British international cultural exchange in 2019.

Lord Sheikh said he was sure that the festival would be a great success and produce some excellent winners.

Croydon University Hospital

Lord Sheikh hosted a charitable dinner which was organised by Mike Mogul for the benefit of the Childrens Ward of the Croydon University Hospital. The hospital requires support to acquire laser equipment which will improve the procedures at the hospital for the undertaking of operations. Lord Sheikh commended Mike Mogul for all the work he undertakes for charitable purposes.

Charities Bill

 

My Lords, at the outset I should declare an interest as I have formed and entirely fund the Sheikh Abdullah Foundation, a small charity set up in my father’s memory which undertakes charitable work in the United Kingdom and overseas. I have also previously spoken in your Lordships’ House on the subject of the charitable sector. Charities are a fundamental barometer of the cohesion of our society and bring people together for a common cause. I feel that by performing charitable work people attain considerable satisfaction, and the work adds meaning to their lives. There are more than 170,000 charities in this country, an estimate of around 1 million charitable trustees, and our record for charitable donations is the best in Europe. We should therefore be justifiably proud of our charities.

 

I warmly welcome this Bill. As those of us who are heavily involved in charitable work will be only too aware, the law on the affairs of the third sector have become increasingly complicated in recent years. We should be grateful to the Law Commission, which, working with the Office for Civil Society and the Charity Commission, has undertaken the considerable workload of preparing this consolidation. The fact that the Table of Origins accompanying the Bill runs to 49 pages suggests that the Bill is long overdue-and it is a large Bill, with over 350 clauses.

 

None the less it is important, and the House will want to ensure that its provisions meet the ambitious tests that the Government have set themselves in bringing it forward. I believe that the Government are right to seek to bring together the principal provisions for charities into one piece of legislation, and to take this opportunity to simplify the structure of the provisions, making it easier for those who wish to practise charitable actions to understand and navigate. That will command widespread support right across the entire charitable sector, where the current system is complicated and inaccessible other than to experts.

 

In part, this Bill arises from a commitment given during the passage of the Charities Act 2006 to consolidate measures into a single piece of legislation. The current legislative basis is fragmented, with key provisions contained in the Recreational Charities Act 1958, the Charities Act 1993 and the Charities Act 2006, all of which have been subsequently amended. The Charity Commission is undertaking a review of its services and this may well result in a reduced role for the commission as part of reducing charity regulation.

 

Many people in the United Kingdom donate their time and energy to assist the work of various charities as trustees, volunteers and fundraisers. We should do all we can to ensure that their efforts are not undermined in any way by unnecessary complexity. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has estimated that nearly 31 million people in this country volunteer informally, with over 20 million volunteering formally. We also have the big society deregulation taskforce, chaired by my noble friend Lord Hodgson, which is likely to suggest a number of measures to reduce regulatory burdens on voluntary activity. The Government are also working to implement my noble friend Lord Young’s recommendations on reducing health and safety burdens on organisations.

 

Cutting red tape and making it easier to volunteer is crucial in encouraging us to volunteer, and I look forward to the implementation of the national citizen service in this regard. The setting aside of £100 million in a voluntary sector transition fund will help many organisations in an environment of reduced public spend. I am also encouraged by the Government’s determination to ensure that charities and social enterprises will have greater opportunities to deliver public services.

 

Making it easier for people to donate to charity is welcome and the big society bank is an extremely exciting development. By expanding the social investment marketplace and helping to attract extra private sector investment, it is expected that the bank will generate hundreds of millions of pounds for charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to help fund social projects across the country. The Bill will also assist the Government in the implementation of their big society agenda. We should take this opportunity to applaud the changes in the 2011 Budget such as the innovative 10 for 10 proposal, whereby if one leaves 10 per cent of one’s estate to charity, the inheritance tax will accordingly be reduced by 10 per cent. The Government should be commended on their commitment to civil society, and the charitable sector plays a critical role in delivering that agenda.

 

One of the key measures of the success of this Bill will be its ability to enable the charitable sector to get on with the excellent job it is doing and to devote less energy to the details of charitable law. We need to ensure that those who donate to charity can have confidence that their resources are being put to optimal use. It is estimated that over 50 per cent of the population make monthly donations to charity, and they want to see that their contributions are making a real difference for the particular cause they support.

 

Yet even in the area of donations we have not managed to optimise the opportunities. The Charities Aid Foundation has estimated that around £750 million each year goes unclaimed from the gift aid scheme. I welcome the action that the Government have taken on gift aid. In this year’s Budget the Chancellor announced reforms to the gift aid scheme in order to try to encourage more people to donate to charity. Under the new regulations charities will not have to declare gift aid when claiming it on small sums adding up to £5,000 over the course of a year. I hope the Minister will take the opportunity to reassure the House that the Government will ensure that, in the new framework, we can expect a silver service from the Charity Commission.

 

We should make it easier to establish and run a charity so that administration consumes fewer resources and the real value can reach those in need of charitable support. Our charities do excellent work and it should be our ambition to create the framework for them to go even further. This is what underpins the Government’s approach, and the Bill is but one part of that.

 

Too often, the good intentions expressed in this House do not translate into good law in the world outside. The Bill is an opportunity to get this right and to make a crucial difference to the charitable sector. In that context, I hope that the Government have given consideration to how best to engage people in the work of charities. Trustees are busy, working together. They have an average age of 57; only one in three is under the age of 50, and only 2 per cent under 30. Experience may bring benefits, but I hope that the Minister agrees that it would be good to encourage a greater number of younger people to get involved in charitable governance.

 

As the size of the charitable sector increases, there is more pressure on recruitment. We need to make sure that those who want to get involved in the work of charities can find a quick and simple way to match their interests with available opportunities. The perception of a complex regulatory framework can act as a deterrent, but the Bill has a chance to fix that-by consolidating provisions it should make the legislation more understandable and easier to navigate.

 

The current charitable landscape is encouraging and the Government have decided to address the concerns about complexity around the legal framework at an opportune time. I fully support the Bill.