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A joint statement from social sector leaders on the right to campaign

In a debate in parliament yesterday Sir John Hayes (Conservative) said that he and 20 other members of the House had written to the Charity Commission to complain about the Runnymede Trust’s response to the report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. A  report that has now been widely discredited including by academics referenced in the report and the UN. Further to this Sir John asked for assurance from minister Kemi Badenoch that she make representations across government to “stop the worthless work—often publicly funded—of organisations that are promulgating weird, woke ideas…”

Many charities exist because the state has failed and a clear example of the failure of the state is a failure to dismantle race inequality in Britain. This is not the first time that MPs have complained to the Charity Commission when charities have sought to raise awareness about or tackle the issues that are harming people that MPs are elected to serve. The changes that charities are asking for are not “worthless” or “weird” but focused on solving some of this country’s most enduring challenges.

In 2014 Conservative MP Connor Burns complained to the Charity Commission about an Oxfam campaign which linked cuts in benefits to poverty. Last year Conservative MPs who have come together as the ‘Common Sense Group’ called for a Charity Commission investigation into Barnardo’s after it published an article explaining white privilege. The Charity Commission CEO has already made it clear, in a blog written in response to complaints made about the National Trust’s work on colonialism, that “Charities are allowed to campaign and to take controversial opinions in support of their purpose…”

Yesterday’s debate in parliament comes in the same week that the Greensill lobbying scandal has shown that those with power and connections have access to the heart of the government while those campaigning on social justice issues are frequently denied an audience, in the same year that the government has introduced a bill that closes down the space to protest, and in the same decade in which we have seen a Lobbying Act that created a chilling effect on civil society campaigning, party political appointments to senior roles in non-ministerial departments (including the Charity Commission) and in public bodies. While party political appointments to important public offices have occurred under successive governments of different parties, the Good Law Project is currently seeking to end that practice by bringing a judicial review. This judicial review has been joined by the Runnymede Trust who are challenging the equality of the hiring practices.

Many of the issues that charities deal with are political, not party political (which is against charity law) but political in the sense that they are issues of the people. Civicus, a global alliance dedicated to strengthening citizen action, defines the civil space in the UK as ‘narrowed’. Civic space means the space in which citizens and civil society organisations are able to organise, participate and communicate without hindrance. This means that civic action is more constrained in the UK than it is in neighbouring countries like the Republic of Ireland and fellow G7 countries like Germany and Canada.

We stand in solidarity with all those working to end racism and recognise that organisations run by racialised people and organisations seeking to tackle inequality are disproportionately targeted by attempts to discredit and quieten them. We also stand with all charities and civil society organisations working for the public good to create the kind of safe, just and free society that benefits us all.

Signed by:

Adeela Warley OBE, CEO, CharityComms

Akiko Hart, CEO, National Survivor User Network

Alex Jacobs, director, Joffe Charitable Trust

Ali Harris, chief executive, Equally Ours

Alison Garnham, chief executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Alison Page, chief executive, Salford CVS

Amy Gibbs, chief executive, Birthrights

Anela Anwar, chief executive, Z2K

Angela McConville, chief executive, NCT

Anne Fox, chief executive officer, Clinks 

Andrew Brown, chief executive, Croydon BME Forum

Asad Rehman, executive director, War on Want

Ben Gilchrist, chief executive, Caritas Shrewsbury

Caron Bradshaw OBE, CEO, Charity Finance Group

Cathy Ashley, chief executive, Family Rights Group 

Charles Kwaku Odoi, chief officer, Caribbean and African Health Network

Daniel Gorman, director, English PEN

Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change

Deniz Uğur, deputy director, End Violence Against Women Coalition

Dhivya O’Connor, founder and executive producer, The Charity CEO Podcast

Donal Watkin, chief executive, Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO)

Donna Covey CBE, chief executive, Against Violence and Abuse (AVA)

Emma Thomas, chief executive, YoungMinds

Estelle du Boulay, director, Rights of Women

Farah Nazeer, chief executive, Women’s Aid

Faeeza Vaid MBE, executive director, Muslim Women’s Network UK

Felicia Willow, interim chief executive, Fawcett Society

Fiona Dwyer, chief executive, Solace Women’s Aid

Gisela Valle, director, Latin American Women’s Rights Service

Girish Menon, chief executive officer, STiR Education

Gracie Bradley, interim director, Liberty

Ioana Harris and Ruth Bashall, co-chief executives, Stay Safe East

Jabeer Butt OBE, chief executive, Race Equality Foundation

James Watson-O’Neill, chief executive, SignHealth

Janet Thorne, chief executive, Reach Volunteering

Jess Southgate, chief executive, Agenda

Jo Hobbs MBE, chief executive, The British Youth Council

Jo Todd, chief executive officer, Respect

Joseph Howes, chief executive, Buttle UK

Jules Hillier, chief executive, Pause

Julie Bentley, chief executive, Samaritans

Kate Collins, CEO, Teenage Cancer Trust

Kate Paradine, chief executive, Women in Prison

Kathy Evans, CEO, Children England

Kathryn Dowlath, chief executive, Harrison Housing

Kirit Mistry, chair, South Asian Health Action

Kudsia Batool, head of equality and strategy, Trade Union Congress (TUC)

Laurie Lee, chief executive, CARE International

Maurice Mcleod, chief executive, Race on the Agenda

Mike Wild, chief executive, Macc

Dr. Melvin Bradley, chief executive, Mental Health Independent Support Team

Miriam Turner and Hugh Knowles, co-executive director, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland

Moira Sinclair, chief executive, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Mushtaq Khan, chief executive officer, BME National

Niamh Eastwood, executive director, Release

Nicola Sharp, chief executive officer, Surviving Economic Abuse

Paul Farmer, chief executive, Mind

Paul Parker, recording clerk, Quakers in Britain

Patricia Durr, chief executive, ECPAT UK

Peter Lewis, CEO, Chartered Institute of Fundraising

Penelope Ryan, national chair, Townswomen’s Guilds

Penny Wilson, CEO, Getting on Board

Philippa Carrick, chief executive, Tibet Relief Fund

Polly Neate, chief executive, Shelter

Poppy Jaman, CEO, City Mental Health Alliance

Quinn McKew, executive director, ARTICLE 19

Rashid Iqbal, chief executive, The Winch

Rick Henderson, chief executive, Homeless Link

Rita Chadha, chief executive, Small Charities Coalition 

Robin Osterley, chief executive, Charity Retail Association

Robina Qureshi, director, Positive Action in Housing

Rosie Tressler OBE, CEO, Student Minds

Ruth Davison, chief executive, Refuge

Sara Kirkpatrick, chief executive officer, Welsh Women’s Aid

Sara Llewellin, chief executive, Barrow Cadbury Trust

Sarah Hughes, CEO, Centre for Mental Health

Sarah Mann, director, Friends, Families and Travellers

Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive, NCVO

Shana Begum, founder, The Best Me CIC

Simon Blake OBE, CEO, Mental Health First Aid England 

Simon Wooley, chief executive officer, Operation Black Vote

Sophie Neuburg, executive director, Medact

Suzanne Jacob, chief executive, SafeLives

Stephanie Draper, chief executive, Bond

Sue Pearson, chief executive, Heeley City Farm

Sue Tibballs, chief executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation

Tom Brake, director, Unlock Democracy

Tony Armstrong, CEO, Locality

Vanessa Morris, chief executive, Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest

Vicky Browning, chief executive, ACEVO

Vivienne Hayes MBE, chief executive, Women’s Resource Centre

Viv Ahmun, founder, Blaksox

Wanda Wyporska, executive director, The Equality Trust

Warren Escadale, chief executive, VSNW

Yasmin Rehman, chief executive officer, Juno Women’s Aid

Yvonne McNamara, CEO, The Traveller Movement

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