Charities Should Mobilise Against Austerity ?

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
Interesting article in this morning's Guaradian ... Fiona Weir , CEO of the Joseph Rowntree Trust ... an organisation mentioned many times over the years on several forums :

The best way for charities to spend money is by challenging austerity.

My work with single parent charities has shown me that we need to call out government social policies, including Brexit.


There has been shockingly little movement by the government since Brexit to seriously address the disconnection and disadvantage on which the referendum vote shone a light.

We face a high risk of people feeling betrayed a year or two from now, including the young people up to the impact of leaving the EU and leave voters who have not seen their lives improve.

More than ever, after we leave, charities and voluntary bodies need to get organised, get campaigning, press for a democracy that gives people a meaningful role in making decisions, nationally and locally, connect citizens to decision makers and give voice to the people we work with.

It is clear to me that voluntary sector organisations simply cannot adequately support or empower the people we work with without far-reaching social and policy change: the two are closely entwined. And this is borne out by research. Last year, when asked who is best placed to speak up for disadvantaged people to help influence government policies, 84% said charities specialising in this area. Only 31% said councillors and 27% said MPs.

Similarly, 63% of people think it is important for charities to highlight if they believe government policies will negatively affect people, with only 6% disagreeing.

I have seen this from my own experience. I took over as chief executive of single parent charity Gingerbread just before the start of the recession, when almost half of the UK’s 3 million single parent families were below the poverty line. We were proud of the positive outcomes we achieved at the charity, but we were surprised to hear that what single parents particularly valued about our work was feeling socially and politically represented, or, in their words, “being in our corner” and campaigning for social change.

When I think back, it is clear that this is where the greatest and lasting impact came from, well out of proportion to the resources we put into it. We saw success in a number of areas, including funding for childcare, but, to take just one of many examples, our campaigning on tax credits saved half a million single parents £700 a year. That is a scale of impact that more helpline calls could never match.

We should see it as a duty, particularly in the face of post-Brexit challenges, to make the case for change. As charities, we need to be in better shape, to redefine ourselves as agents of change and work collaboratively to bring that about.

Instead, at the moment, we’re spending too much time on securing contracts, rather than making contracts work for the people we work with. And we are putting far too little funding into campaigning. I know how difficult it is to squeeze more from our precious pool of funding. More than a century ago, our trust’s founder, Joseph Rowntree, often talked of how it was easier to raise money for the York soup kitchen than for the causes of poverty – and it is depressing that that is still the case.

Charity law should not be a constraint. There is no excuse there for a well-run charity not to get on with campaigning and political activity. Charities should talk to Conservatives, who have, after all, been in power for seven years. With a hung parliament and a high number of marginals, this is a good time to build relationships.

But, above all, we should stop squandering our unique position. We are grounded in communities, connected to people’s daily experience and we know all too well when government policies don’t work.

This is an edited version of a speech made by Fiona Weir at the New Philanthropy Capital conference on 11 October.


A call to arms ?

Not quite but does raise some interestings notions ... including the definition of a " Charity " as mentioned in other threads posted recently and
how said charities are run ... top / down seems to be the modern way as opposed to bottom up ... being told as opposed to being consulted ?

As it stands , a whole zoo of organisations , all claiming to be " Charities " , some leading the way by challenging the system , others content to merely watch from the sidelines ... most members excluded from the decision / policy making.

In essence , a whole industry created around the concept of charities wherein salaries are paid to lure " Talent " into that sector.

Time for a sort out as to who is exactly who ... strip the charity element from those whose actions are anything but ... and create a new playing field so that everyone knows who everyone else is.

Once that is established , the true charities can be left to get on with their historical role , leaving the battles of this world to those ready and equipped for it.

Whether it will lead to a shift of members from one charity to a new organisation remains to be seen.

Our own supporting organisations ... a new organisation to take on our issues as opposed to " Leave it with us " ? ... been muted ever since the forums became available on both sites.

The Oliver Twist approach has NEVER worked and yet , what is the alternative if a charity remains a charity with the known restraints imposed under both Charity and Lobbying Act law ????????????

That's like admitting defeat even before the real battle has started !!!

For our fellow carers using food banks , that's precisely what they see.

Providing a soup kitchen , and then challenging the " Status Quo " is not on ... they are either one of the other.

No more Q ships !!!
Hmm, I don't think, off the top of my head, that existing charities should be political lobbyists - political lobbying should be done by clearly stated Political Lobbyist organisations - whether they are entitled to be 'charities' or not. But there should be a clear distinction between giving money to a charity that hands out directly to those whom it is targeted at (the dreaded non-word 'clients'!), and between giving money to a charity that will politically lobby.

I don't want to give money to the former, and then discover it's been siphoned off to the latter! Even if, say, a charity like Gingerbread both directly supports clients AND politically lobbies, the two should be DIFFERENT charities, and there should be NO cross-funding between them.

I think the issue gets even more muddy in international charities, where we see charities like Medicins Sans Frontieres now hiring boats to transport immigrants from North Africa to Europe, because the charity believes this is the right (ie, humanitarian) thing to do. Whether it is or isn't is not the point - the point is, as a donor, I want my money to be spent on medicines and treating ill/wounded people, not on a 'wider' solution to their problem....

Conversely if I want to donate to a 'political lobby' charity (maybe Friends of the Earth, something like that, ie, that doesn't seem to hand out money 'directly' for things like, for example, funding a nature reserve)( does it??!), then I don't my 'political' donation to be used for 'direct' action (eg, funding a nature reserve).

So long as the distinction is clear, I don't see a problem - but I don't like charities conflating the two.

Also, of course, if charities veer into political lobbying, they start to attract staff that are simply wannabe powerbrokers, politicos, journos etc etc, rather than those who just want to help the 'clients'.
I can't remember who it was, but I do remember a quote from an India humanitarian, who said:

'If I give money to the poor, I am regarded as a saint. If I ask WHY they are poor, I'm regarded as a communist'.

This seems very true.
'Single Parent Charities'.....?

Wow, I never knew there were so many widows and widowers in this country.

They, after all, are the only single parents. All other children (other than orphans) have TWO parents.

Somewhere.
First reply was one of the best I have EVER read on this Forum ( Probably in the top ten even in CarerWatch days ! ) ... if the authoress does not mind me saying.

Sums up the present situation as to the " Confusion " in who is actually who in the minds of the public.

Dovetails into another thread on this forum which details the dilema / conundrums facing every one of the " Charities " out there :

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/news-and ... oads-30771

Perhaps even more contraversial , the donating of monies to a charity , XXp in every pound deduced for " Expenses " , and then part of the remainder use for " Lobbying " without the members first deciding what issues are the actual purpose of the lobbying ???

Greenpeace is a charity. Would any reader expect any donations NOT to be used for direct action ?

Trussells also a charity ... any donations not to be used for anything other than food / household essentials / clothing and energy for their " Clients " with no barriers other than the correct " Paperwork " ?

MIND ... good example from the recent past ... now in cohorts with the Government delivering services ... donate to them and ... ???

Other well know charities now stepping into the void created by the cutbacks ... now in the front line delivering services instead of just providing the modern day equivalent of soup kitchens and a shoulder to cry on for their members ?

If there is a general confusion in the public's mind as to exactly what they are donating their monies for , would the level of donations now show a marked decrease to those where real confusion now exists ?

In which case , the members of those " Charities " would suffer and have little recourse in trying to change the way that charity was operated.

Today , it is definately a case of what's in the tin that counts ... ignore what it says on the label !!!

Questions not easy answered whilst so much is now up in the air ???

Austerity continues to affect ALL our lives ... that's the real emeny , this thread is a mere side show in comparison.

But , to challenge Austerity , the opposing forces need to unite ... or , at least , declare their intentions.

" Is you in or is you out ? "

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A previous thread dovetails nicely into this one ... Prof. Luke Clements ... mentioned in dispatches for , around , a decade :

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/news-and ... t=militant
" Carers must become more militant " being the general theme.


Always somewhere in the background , the draft of the proposed Care Act would have been passed across his desk before they delivered that poisoned chalice to the House to eventually find it's way into law.

He has helped draft and promote a number of Parliamentary Bills aimed at improving the rights of people experiencing social exclusion – including Bills that became the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995 and the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004. In 2013 he was the Special Adviser to the Parliamentary Committee that scrutinised the draft Bill that resulted in the Care Act 2014.


Perhaps a future article published somewhere expressing his views on said Act at that time ?

Still number one on my list to become a trustee in this organisation if ever I had that choice.

CarerWatch could have been a whole lot more than it was with a couple of academics of his calibre on board.

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Footnote :

Just checked the CarerWatch archives.

Prof. Luke Clements was invited onto the old PRT forum for a live chat session back in 2007.

From a few comments on CarerWatch, he was the star of the show as far as the few reports of that session still exist ... the most relevant one being how easy they found him relating to carers ... as if he was one of us as opposed to an academic.

Another reason why the loss of the old PRT forum ( Not the newer one run by The Carers Trust ) was a great loss to all carers.
Charities often seem afraid to speak out against the likes of austerity out of fear of reprisals (i.e. "gag" lobbying bill)
I do agree with what you are saying not enough gets said.. but this has been somewhat a trend for some years.
Society changes / evolves as does it's citizens.

In CarerLand , it is safe to say that the vast majority of carers are economically and socially worse off than they were when the first forums came online ... say 2004 for year zero.

Same can be said for our carees ... few will argue that most Government policy since Year Zero has failed them in improving their lives ... the growth of food banks being a major indicator.

How have our supporting organisations , together for those for our carees , changed to meet the new challenges of this " Sad New World " on behalf of their members ?

Therein lies the conundrum ... they haven't changed ... in fact , they are now more remote than ever.

It is not a critisism , merely a fact ... both have " Declared " themselves as charities despite options to take on more active roles.

Organisations have sprung up from the grass roots such as Black Triangle and Disability Now ... virtually voices of anger as opposed to offering anything radical ... remains to be seen just where they are heading ... especially if the anger element is replaced by reason ?

How they approach the problems now out there ( Most already well known to almost all readers ) remains to be seen.

Our " Lord Kitch " details in plain English what our priorities are ... those for our carees following a similar tombstone ... again , safe to say none of them will be addressed in the near future UNLESS the Carers Strategy addresses them ... and the odds on that would be akin to a major win on the lottery.

For carers / carees alike , the void for any form of representation is wider than ever ... no respite from the steamroller of austerity and in continuing demonization of people unable to " Contribute " by physically working is contingent on the scraps being thrown from the Powers to Be , from time to time.

No political party out there with a workable alternative exists , just different ideas in tinkering with the present system.

Where does that leave carers / carees ?

Merely existing / living in a hostile world with very little hope of things ever changing to ease their plight ... blowing the years of dust off this one ... swinging in the wind.

" Welcome ( Indeed ) to this Sad New World " ... and , with the continuing UC rollout , perhaps Angry New World to follow.
Given a couple of mentions on other threads , should this Issue be brought back to the table ?

I am aware meetings are planned ... surely , one Issue to be high on any agenda ?

Charities ... now mostly declared non combatants.

Fine ... just what do you propose to do for the members you purport to represent ?

Sit back and pretend nothing is happening ... not our problem , as charities ?

There are things that you ALL could be doing ... at arms length.

Do you want a tombstone of suggestions ?