Wednesday 26 January 2011

More Attacks on charity!

What is going on? Another attack on charities in The Times Letter column, this time from a Conservative MEP, Syed Kamall. This is beginning to look like a concerted campaign to attack the charity sector for daring to speak out about cuts.

The letter is headed "Charity Quangos". It makes the ludicrous claim that, "a number of charities have become clients of the State, little more than quangos running publicity campaigns, rather than agents of change."

Anyone who actually knows the work of the big charities delivering key services knows this is nonsense. In fact great charities like Action for Children, Barnardo's, the Children's Society, Turning Point, Tomorrow's People, St Giles Trust, Addaction... the list goes on, have been responsible for major advances and innovation in delivering public services. Mental health charities, largely funded through contract work by Health Authorities and Councils, have revolutionised our treatment in tackling mental illness. The disability charities have pioneered better ways to support and treat disability. The list of charity innovation is long and splendid. It is right the State has supported this, often because it has been more cost effective.

And anyone who knows the Chief Executives of these charities knows they are no gutless quangocrats.

That is why Messrs Lansley, Ken Clarke, Greg Clark, Ian Duncan Smith, Michael Gove, for example, are seeking a major expansion of delivery of State funded services by charities. So is Mr Kamall telling his Conservative colleagues they are wrong? Is he saying they should be withdrawing contracts from these charities? Does he want them to provide less? Not take up the challenge of the Prime Minister to help reform public services by more contracts for delivery?

Is he worried that Capita and Serco are now also quangos because they get something like 90% of their funding from the State?

But what is chilling about this letter is what it reveals about some politicians views that Big Society is in fact about the withdrawal of State funding. In reality, turning back the clock to providing key welfare services by private philanthropy rather than through taxation. Whilst the Prime Minister has been explicit in his view that Big Society is not about the State withdrawing, this is not the view of Mr Kamall.

He says, "the attacks on Big Society from some charity leaders... (perhaps he means me though if he does he has clearly not actually read what I have said!).. stem from their unwillingness to accept greater responsibility without money from the State in return."

So presumably charities being urged to provide a major expansion of support for rehabilitation to cut the prison population should be bidding for the contracts for free? Or charities wanting to run DWP work programme should do so on the basis they don't want any money but will go and fund raise,(though obviously the private firms, or private quangos as we must call them bidding will get paid.)

So Mr Kamall believes that, "the point of the Big Society is that the State should not be the primary agent, nor a funder of change. A smaller State should leave space for voluntary action and social co-operation to tackle problems that affect communities. Many charities need to be weaned off State dependency".

Is the mask slipping? Back to Victorian philanthropy. Our welfare services now to be provided through private donations, not the taxpayer. Meals on wheels provided only in areas where the charity is able to fund raise.

The logic of this argument is obvious; much of the work of our great national charities would cease. Hospices would close. Work with the jobless cut. The mentally ill left in communities unsupported. All these services run on contract for the State.

The truth is that the MPs who seem to delight in attacking charities are unlikely to win over the masses. The public trust us. Pick a fight with us by all means. But the charity sector has been around for a thousand years, delivering public services. The public don't like the cuts being made to charities. Suggesting we need more, not less cuts will not go down well. Remember there are millions of people who are members of the charities you are now slandering by calling them quangos!


SchlessisMORE said...

You're on fire Sir Bubb. So glad to see you advocating for us.
Great job.

Large Melot Please said...

If life was that simple. My objection to state funding of charities is that it is an oxymoron, this is not private philanthropy but a waste of taxpayer's money for often with dubious intended and unintended consequences. Many charities such as Action on Smoking and Health are funded partly by the Department of Health (DoH) to er...lobby the DoH for more smoking restrictions. That is an appalling conflict of interests. Kamall and me are not the only ones who have this worry, there is a website called Fake Charities which documents the abuse of taxpayers money.

Conflicts of interest: By sheer coincidence me and Syed are colleagues at the Progressive Conservatives the classical liberal arm of the Conservative Party. I saw this post on his Facebook page.

Large Melot Please said...

Action on Smoking and Health's (ASH) behaviour can often be called into question. For example their raison d'etre is to reduce smoking in this country. If you go to their website they extol the virtues of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) which has a "success" rate of =/< 5%, while electronic cigarettes are 63% and the Allen Carr books and clinics 53%. If you visit their website these ways are not mentioned at all, why?

In 2001 the then head of ASH Clive Bates wrote to GlaxoSmithKline the NRT manufacturer admitting that they had solicited the NHS for it to adopt GSKs products and not only that actually own shares in GSK.

You maybe aware the Labour government has passed the tobacco display ban being reviewed by the Conservative party. That is tobacco products in shops are to be covered up. In the 2nd URL are emails obtained under an FOI request documenting how ASH, Cancer Research and the Department of Health (DoH) presented the cost to shops. Basically Parliament was grievously misled on the true cost. They quoted £120-£200 which is the cost of a temporary solution, while the permanent solution is £2,800. The figure of £2,800 while being told in plain English in writing was never communicated to Parliament.

ASH is the fake charity I know best and can document their political advocacy and questionable tactics in depth, I am sure there are many others who fit the bill too based on my experience of ASH.