Senior charity leaders have today written to the Prime Minster urging him to reconsider a Cabinet Office proposal to impose an anti-advocacy clause on charities in receipt of Government grant.
A concerted campaign against this proposal to restrict charity campaigning is being driven by charity leaders’ network ACEVO and charity umbrella organisation NCVO. More than 130 signatories to the letter to David Cameron include charity leaders ranging from Oxfam CEO Mark Goldring , The St Giles Trust CEO Rob Owen and and the Brighton Housing Trust CEO Andy Winter.
The letter reminds the Prime Minister of the pledge to charities to “respect and uphold the independence of civil society organisations to deliver their mission, including their right to campaign, regardless of any relationship, financial or otherwise, which may exist” and his pledge to: ”set free the voluntary sector and social enterprises to deal with the linked problems that blight so many of our communities, of drug abuse, family breakdown, poor public space, chaotic home environments, high crime”.
The letter argues that the anti-advocacy clause would not only corrode the central relationship between Government and charity, it could lead to incoherence and failure of function between individual charities and their sponsoring Government departments.
Campaigns ranging from driving forward the rehabilitation revolution, promoting healthy diets, the prevent strategy and whistleblowing in the NHS and other institutions central to the nation’s welfare.
And what of the other messages that may no longer be sent or heard – messages sent by those charities whose funding is heavily Government dependent such as international aid and development. For example raising public awareness and fundraising to humanely maintain refugees in the Middle East and espousing and developing the fight against FGM.
It is totally unclear just how much critical advice and campaigning might disappear under these proposals. Cabinet Minister Matthew Hancock may well say that charities can use non-government money to deliver these. But what of the charities, small and medium, who rely both on public donation and government to maintain their existence and service delivery.
Once these organisations have used their donations, and much of their grant, for service delivery and the organisation’s survival shall they be denied the use of remaining resource to convey and promote critical messages both to Government and the public.
How much of all of this critical feedback to Government and raising of public awareness would be cut off at the knees? No one, Government or others who support this proposal, knows.
There is a clear and present danger that many organisations would find themselves unable to work with Government if unable to feedback with transparency which policies are out of kilter with real need and how to solve that.
Only the individuals and the causes relying on charities will be damaged by an agenda the intention of which seems to be to remove the voice of concern and friendly criticism.
Commenting on the anti-advocacy clause ACEVO Chief Executive Sir Stephen Bubb said: “This proposal makes no sense in logic and is a direct assault on the cause of social justice. Government is right to work with charities and it would be absurd if it stopped listening to the charities it has chosen to work with. The Government clearly doesn’t know the impact of the measure – neither do its proposers. It would demonstrate an extraordinary degree of hard-headedness if the Government were not to rethink and reaffirm their commitment to social justice and to the duty of charities to speak out on behalf of the vulnerable. We’re ready to work with them to achieve that end.”
The full letter to the Prime Minister can be found here.