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Lobbying / Gagging ? For Charities , A Crossroads ? And ... It's General Election Time Again , Folks ! - Carers UK Forum

Lobbying / Gagging ? For Charities , A Crossroads ? And ... It's General Election Time Again , Folks !

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
Interesting one from today's Independent , an uneasy situation for those " Charities " still clinging on to charitable status :

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/ho ... 18416.html

More than 100 charities claim they are being gagged by anti-lobbying rules.

Letter signed by 122 organisations including Save the Children and Greenpeace warns their voices are being silenced due to ‘draconian’ legislation

Just one comment from the comments section that asks a very potent question on this :

I thought charities were there to help people, not to "make voices heard" or to enter any debates.

I don't see Macmillan or Diabetes UK feeling the need to make big political statements about NHS funding, despite the fact that cancer and diabetes take up a large portion of the NHS budget between them.

I do see mental health charities speaking up for the mentally ill and how they are treated in society - but not in an overtly political way.

Perhaps some charities need a rethink about their primary purpose. It seems to me that there is a link between this and the rise of £100,000-plus CEOs and senior executives at large charities.

There's a lot more that meets the eye on first reading.

Are pressure groups really charities in the historical sense ?

Are charities who seek to " Lobby " exceeding their charitable status ?

How can a " Charity " behave like a pressure group and yet seek protection from draconian legisalation on lobbying , and status defining a charity ?

Ties in with another , recent thread ... Charities / Businesses ? Which Is Which :

https://www.carersuk.org/forum/news-and ... hich-30703

In short , the Law needs to be changed to reflect the true state of affairs for each organisation removing the tax advantages and protections for those hiding behind the curent legislation ... sort out the wolves from the sheep.

Even legislate for " Traditional " charities to be run by their beneficiaries as opposed to outside paid professionals ?

Can one imagine a traditional trade union being run by a paid professional who had no previous experience in that industry ?

Or , a charity for the blind without people who were not blind making all the decisions ?
Groups form from like minded people for various reasons, Mencap to put others in touch, and the same for Carers. They then make representations to the government to improve the situation for those people, maybe benefits, day centres etc.
The real problem, as I see it, was that government then decided that charities were better at providing some services themselves, or did it at less cost, so then they paid the charity. I never liked this idea, because it then gives power to control the charity by saying "unless you do what we want we will withdraw funding". This defeats the whole object of the charity in the first place.
Slightly more , this time from the Civil Society web site :

https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/cha ... g-act.html

Interesting ..... named signatories to the Letter :

Signatories to the letter include Greenpeace UK, NCVO, Acevo, the Charities Aid Foundation, Charity Finance Group, Children England, Christian Aid, Navca, Social Enterprise UK and WCVA.

A mixture of charities , pressure groups and front line aid organisations.

And yet , all claim to be " Charities " which is technically correct if they are registered as such with the Charity Commissioners.

Confusing , isn't it ?

Along with the Lobbying Act ,perhaps a new act to sort out who is actually who ?

Seems like our Australian cousins are experiencing similar problems ?

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion ... 62cce9fef3

Just one section :
This is the key: inform the ­donors and taxpayers. Charities spend time lobbying government for money. They are indignant that government wants them to account to their donors and the taxpayer for their lobbying.

There is one other important piece of information the government has not required of charities: to disclose money received from government sources by way of grants or contracts.

This information should be explicitly included in charity accounts and on their websites. To this, add international source donations and disclosure of lobbying, and the voters can decide whether the charity operates in the public interest.

Time to bring in legislation to reflect just what is happening in this Sad New World.
An interesting report from the Civil Societies web site :

https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/voices/w ... onths.html

What will government do for charities over the next three months?

Quite an informative list of " To dos " .... more of tinkering than of reforming ?

Two areas of vague interest to us in CarerLand :

New Crown Representative for the Voluntary Sector. The minister for civil society announced in December 2016 that it would recruit a new crown representative for the voluntary sector. The role is intended to ensure there is someone to act as a focal point within groups of providers of government services. The charity sector has been without a crown representative since 2014, when Michael O’Toole stood down. The deadline for applications closed over six months ago and an announcement is expected shortly.

Lobbying Act reform. In the wake of the election result the charity sector has stepped up its insistence that the Lobbying Act needs to be reformed. Charities have written to both Damian Green, minister for the Cabinet Office and to Crouch outlining their concerns and calling for recommendations made by Lord Hodgson in his review of the Act to be implemented as soon as possible. This may not happen in the next three months, but we should hopefully get some indication of whether there is any government appetite to act.

VAGUE being the operative word as well as perception.

Tinkering ... where wholesale reform is needed.

I say this yet again ... par for the course in CarerLand.
An updated report from the BBC & The Guardian :


https://www.theguardian.com/politics/20 ... bbying-act

Charity anger at ministers' refusal to relax lobbying rules

The charities claim legislation passed in 2014 stopped them from "engaging" during the general election campaign.

"How are charities supposed to speak up for the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society, both here and globally, when they are at risk of being penalised by the Lobbying Act?," said Tamsyn Barton, chief executive of international development charity Bond.

"The government is legislating the sector into silence at a time when our voices are needed the most. This is a terrible day for British democracy."

The act limits how organisations not deemed to be "party political" can campaign during election periods.

Charities say they either have to take expensive legal advice to stay within the rules or restrict their activities.

Guardian :

Charities condemn rejection of changes to Lobbying Act

Campaign groups fear most vulnerable will be left without a voice and say act has chilling effect on freedom of speech

Charities have condemned ministers for rejecting changes to the Lobbying Act which were made by a government-commissioned review body. Campaign groups say they will be left unable to speak out for vulnerable and marginalised people in society because the law has a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

The Lobbying Act restricts what non-governmental organisations can say in the year before a general election.

As a result of an outcry from the charities sector, the government commissioned a review of the recommended amendments.

Seems like a clear cut choice for " Charities " .... either ditch the Charity tag , or shut up and go back to traditional soup kitchen operations.

How can one " Lobby " as a " Charity " when the Government has now basically gagged any " Political " activity ?

Perhaps our own Carers UK should ponder on that one a little after taking the decision to remain a " Charity " ... persumably with their membership's approval ?

One interesting comment made on the Guardian article :

As Rees Mogg recently emphasised, this government is becoming reliant on the goodwill of people and charities to do what government is either unable or unprepared to do.

In other words, this government is now being propped up by charities.

By ignoring the charities that prop them up, the Tories are simply showing that there is no limit to their ignorance.

This one will simmer on ....
More on the effect of the Lobbying Act on charities from today's Guardian :

https://www.theguardian.com/society/com ... agging-law

The Lobbying Act is stifling charities. But the Tories don’t seem to care

Proposed reforms to the “gagging law” were a chance for the government to offer an olive branch to the third sector. But ministers passed it up.

Passed under the coalition government in 2014, the act – formally the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act – covers any activity by charities that could be “reasonably regarded” as intended to influence voters in England and Wales. Organisations that spend more than £20,000 (£10,000 in Wales) in the 12 months prior to a general election must register with the Electoral Commission.

While some charities object on principle – Greenpeace earlier this year became the first to be sanctioned for refusing to register and was fined £30,000 – others argue, not unreasonably, that the snap June election this year exposed the impossibility of planning 12 months ahead.
'Chilling' Lobbying Act stifles democracy, charities tell party chiefs
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Moreover, the act is said to be having a “chilling effect” on charities’ campaigning way beyond its actual terms. Hodgson was asked by ministers at the start of 2015 to review the relevant part of the act and last year recommended changes, including shortening the specified campaign period to four months and stipulating that, to be caught by the rules, any activity must be intended to influence voters. Initial responses from government appeared favourable, but when sector leaders met recently with Chris Skidmore, minister for the constitution, he made clear there was no prospect of any reform.

Comments section as usual ... just one of them ... asked perfectly innocently ?

Call me old fashioned but my understanding is charities take donated money and direct it towards charitable causes.

Since when did political campaigning become a charitable cause?

Charities that campaign aren't charities - they are lobbyists and political activists - it's not exactly hard to understand.

I ask the same question ... is it a bird or a plane ?

For some who have elected to receive monies from the Government , how can they purport to represent their members if said members' needs are in direct conflict with the Government policy of the day ?

Politics and charities have never mixed .... time for the latter to change ... for those who do like a bit of " Lobbying " from time to time ?
Seems like the road to 1984 is getting shorter by the week ?

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... t-grenfell

The government are dealing out gagging clauses – and stifling the truth.

From Brexit experts to Grenfell inspectors, non-government organisations are being told not to create " Adverse publicity. "

We have a government terrified of public debate. Ministers try to undermine the right to free speech at every turn. Officials seem to have given up altogether on our right to information. Campaign groups set up to champion our rights are cowed by restrictions on their activities.

The latest cut to our democratic rights was uncovered on Wednesday – gagging clauses inserted into contracts worth £25bn, preventing non-government organisations and companies from speaking out or creating “adverse publicity” for the government. These included consultants working on Brexit, experts assessing the safety of cladding on social housing post-Grenfell and prisoner rehabilitation charities working with the home office.

Is this a problem? After all, don’t you take the money and then tolerate the conditions that come with it? The problem with this is that all of us – as a society – lose out from this approach. Democratic, responsive and accountable policymaking cannot be left to a five-yearly beauty contest. It requires robust debate, vigorous disagreement, and a presumption of transparency.

The problem is particularly acute when 10 years of austerity has hollowed out public services, leaving many non-profit organisations and businesses running an increasing number of basic services directly, on contract from the government. Last year, nearly two-thirds of charities reported using public donations to prop up key health and social services they had been hired to provide. Bad enough when such organisations are essentially providing public services subsidised by charity. Worse still when they lose their advocacy voice because, in taking on those duties, they are gagged by the government.

In the development sector, organisations previously lauded for their campaigning prowess have fallen silent while the aid money they campaigned for is increasingly spent for the benefit of British business and the City of London rather than on combatting poverty. Why are they silent? Too many of them are locked into massive, multi-year funding programmes with the Department for International Development.

But it isn’t all about money. The Lobbying Act 2014, created supposedly to crack down on big money in politics, is now infamous for the silencing effect it has had on charities and other campaign organisations. The act defines what constitutes “electoral campaigning” very broadly, and then draws rigorous rules around such a campaign near an election – which is retrospectively applied over the previous 12 months. Which means, in essence, we are constantly in an electoral cycle, constantly having to watch every word we utter. Across the board, charities report that this act has had a tremendously chilling effect on their campaigns.
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And when both bribes and gags fail to do the trick, the government can always simply stop telling us anything. Freedom of information seems to be all but ignored by some government departments. Over the last quarter for which we have statistics, the Department for International Trade completely rejected 48% of requests. Only 27% of requests were met in full. And 34% of requests weren’t even answered in the permitted time period. The Department for Exiting the EU, Ministry of Justice, and Department for Business similarly completely rejected around half of all requests. Even such seemingly trivial matters as how often a working group meets in a day is too sensitive for us to know.

Without information, without the right to speak, without whistleblowers, you can’t build a thriving democracy. Other European governments understand this. In many northern European countries it is common for governments to fund critical civil society organisations, understanding as they do that only through criticism and accountability can you make good, inclusive decisions.

Our government’s actions run in the opposite direction. But campaigners themselves have a real responsibility here. We cannot simply wait for the tide to turn or for a new government to be elected. It is our job to hold any government to account, and it is not up to the government of the day to decide when we can do that and when we can’t. In fact, the harder we are pushed down, the harder we must push back. What we do is not a privilege, but a right.

Democracy will not be destroyed by a single blow, but by a thousand cuts. It will hobble along injured, hollowed out, more and more unable to meet the demands and desires of our country’s citizens, some of whom will turn more to populists and “strong men” to introduce the radical changes we need. If we want something different – a deep democracy from below – then we will need to fight for it.

Even more sinister when you throw in the fallout from Grenfell Tower into the mix.

A cover up ?

Only to be expected ... the traditional British Way ... dating back to Aberfan ... wherein NO charges were ever brought.

The System protects it's own.

Austerity ... stay silent ... tow the Government line ... and a knighthood or other reward will be coming your way ?
UK charities call for end to 'gagging law' in run-up to elections.

NGO leaders say Lobbying Act stops them from representing the most vulnerable in society.

Leading charities are calling on the next government to lift the legal gag that prevents them from campaigning for the poor and marginalised in society.

Heads of non-governmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth, Shelter, Liberty, End Violence Against Women, the Quakers and the Howard League, have written to all of the main political parties calling for greater freedom to speak out.

The charities say they are being prevented from representing the most vulnerable in society through the restrictive requirements of the Lobbying Act. They are pushing for it to be significantly revised and for the next government to uphold the right to protest and speak out.

The act has been labelled a gagging law for charities; it controls what they can say and do publicly in the 12-month run-up to elections. It aims to ensure that individuals or organisations cannot have an undue influence over the vote.

The act was aimed at controlling the influence of business lobbying and wealthy individuals, but NGOs say it has had a chilling effect on charities in the run-up to elections.

Increasingly, they say, restrictions have been placed on the ability of civil society groups to speak out against policies that could harm vulnerable people in the UK and around the world.

The charities say despite the government’s recent warm words about promoting democracy and civil society voices around the world, in the UK both are in decline. The UK has joined a list of 12 European countries in which civic space is rated as “narrowed”.

The letter, sent to Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson, Nicola Sturgeon, Siân Berry and Jonathan Bartley, Nigel Farage and Adam Price, says: “It is essential that this freedom to campaign is restored. The UK can only be a beacon to the rest of the world if it respects civil society’s right (and sometimes duty) to campaign.”

Stephanie Draper, the chief executive of Bond, the international development network organisation, said: “Civil society organisations play a critical role in ensuring the voices of the most vulnerable people are heard by policymakers. However, it is getting harder and harder for these organisations to perform this function which means policies are at times being made with little representation from the people most affected.

“Any future government must take urgent steps to revise the Lobbying Act, ensure that all government departments work with civil society throughout the policymaking process, and remove any restrictions on challenging government policy publicly from grants and contracts.”

Paul Parker, the recording clerk of Quakers in Britain said: “Civil society must continue to speak truth to power. Deterring civil society campaigning is short-sighted, and risks missing insights vital to policy change. At election time it is vital that politicians don’t cover their ears, but listen to charities, faith groups and civil society organisations working with the most vulnerable.”

A conundrum for CUK if ever there was one ?

Not quite , their decision to reaffirm " Charity status " was ground zero.

Strange that ... we all still see them dipping their toes into the political arena ... even a general election manifesto.

The days when they gave us priority over all other considerations have long gone.

Today , our interests come a very poor second ... " Don't rock the boat " is the present policy.