Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Defamation

It is disappointing to see Government Departments making cuts trying to defend them by defaming third sector organisations. Perhaps they should remember we are expected to deliver "Big Society" and may be less willing partners if Government tries to blame us when times are difficult.

Let's look first at DFID. A very angry member has found their contract has been cut.

They have been delivery partners funded by DFID through various grant programmes for ten years, with huge success in support of learning outcomes on their behalf.

Despite this, and the Department not content with cancelling their contract, decided to give the organisation a bad press.

They are mulling over a challenge on the basis of 'defamation' because they have been splashed all over the national press under the headline 'DFId Axes Frivolous Aid Projects' and lots of quotes from the Secretary of State about 'ensuring value for money' hence cutting these projects and thus implying these charities are wasting money.

This is astonishing. DFID need a partnership with third sector organisations. Suggesting that charities have been engaged for the last ten years in frivolity is a slur on their reputation and this can do untold damage for their reputation.

It's sad they feel they need to justify cuts by attacking charities.

Then we turn to the Future Jobs Fund which it was announced will end after the current contracts finish. It must be remembered that this scheme was one devised and supported by the third sector. The sector stepped up to the mark, got stuck in providing much needed jobs to young people who otherwise faced unemployment. Some great schemes were put in place, with quality jobs and where many member organisations had looked to continue support. It must be hoped that the alternative work programmes will be there in time to provide the apprenticeships that are needed and to honour the job or training guarantee.

What however is quite unacceptable is to describe this scheme as "ineffective". I much agree with the comments made by Peter Holbrook of the Social Enterprise Coalition who said,

We knew some tough cuts would be coming but it’s still very disappointing to see an end to the FJF.

‘I very much disagree with the Government’s description of the FJF as an ‘ineffective element’ of employment programmes and applaud all the social enterprises who participated and created thousands of new jobs as part of the scheme.’


Given the relative newness of the scheme and the fact that it is ongoing how is it possible to make an objective decision on effectiveness of the scheme?

Indeed I would like to know from DWP what advice they took from the academics who are currently undertaking the evaluation of FJF about their conclusions on the scheme. Did they say it was "ineffective" or is this a piece of spin?

Perhaps those in DWP who were responsible for this description should reflect tht in so doing they have insulted many great social enterprises, charities and community organisations who have provided a professional and dedicated service that has put young people in work.

We are still analysing the full implications of the £6bn cuts package. Clearly member organisations are affected. we will want to provide full support for those members.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Whilst I agree with your sentiment, it seems a bit daft to essentially suggest that its faceless bureaucrats in DWP or other departments who are defaming charities. Its very clear where such briefing is coming from - i.e. the new Ministers and their advisers.

Stephen Bubb said...

A very fair point! I suspect you may be right. In any case a warning shot to anyone trying to diss our sector!

Anonymous said...

(I am a different anonymous)

And of course the new team of ministers have visited, or at least personally evaluated, all of the "ineffective" projects. It would be rather good if the Big Society included little people and vulnerable people. Big Society for Big People seems same old tories to me and the Lib Dems should hang their heads in shame (says one who has voted Lib Dem since 1979 and campaigned for them in the 1974 election when aged 17)

Anonymous said...

so is there a case for 'defamation' in cases like these, or is it all 'lose lose' for voluntary sector bodies when being bullied by government ministers in this way?