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Grayling: charities put too much emphasis on campaigning

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice
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Grayling: charities put too much emphasis on campaigning6

Finance | David Ainsworth | 4 Mar 2014

The charity sector is putting too much emphasis on campaigning and not enough on service delivery, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told an audience of charity leaders last night.

Speaking at a social welfare debate in London, organised by the Lord Mayor’s Charity Leadership Programme, Grayling said there was currently discussion about how much weight should be given to three issues – contracting, fundraising and campaigning.

“I disagree strongly with the campaigning side,” he said. “People talk about the amount MPs are lobbied by big business. But I would say that there is 20 to 30 times as much lobbying from the charitable sector, perhaps even more.

“I see there are big national organisations with active, well-funded campaigning groups at the centre, but with cash-strapped branches trying to provide services on the ground in communities, and I think 'are you sure you've got the balance right?'

“From the point of view of a constituency MP it doesn't feel right at all.”

'The sector must behave in a commercial way'

Grayling also said that the sector had to adapt in order to contract with government.

“The sector itself has to behave a reasonably commercial way,” he said. “If you want to win a government contract, you’ve got to be able to do a genuine business deal. We try to facilitate opportunities for the sector but we can't provide it on a plate.”

He said the lesson he had taken from the Work Programme and Transforming Rehabilitation was that the sector needed to build more commercial skills, and that he had explained this lesson to Acevo, the NCVO and to contracting organisations.

He said that change was inevitable for charities, because previous government methods of engaging with the sector had been too inefficient.

“In both of these programmes the social sector is enormously important, both for big organisations like Tomorrow's People and the Shaw Trust, and smaller niche organisations,” he said. “We've tried to create a level playing field.”

But he said the sector also had to change to meet government’s needs.

“Before the Work Programme the Department for Work and Pensions contracted with 1,200 charities,” he said. “With the best will in the world that's not really terribly viable. It's much more difficult to manage large numbers of charities.”

Grayling said he did not agree with criticism from members of the audience who said they could not afford to become involved in payment-by-results programmes which took a long time before they paid out to contractors.

“I don’t believe payment-by-results puts any constraints on the sector,” he said.

He said that charities should be able to get funding from prime contractors who had the balance sheet to fund smaller organisations during delivery, or they should be able to attract social investment to fund a payment-by-results contract.

He said it was a concern that charities might be used as “bid candy” but that protections such as the Merlin Standard had been introduced to prevent this happening. He said he had been prepared to take action to protect charities but they had not approached him with the evidence needed to do so.

“It would have made my life much easier if I had been able to sack a prime contractor just to make the point I was willing to,” he said.

'We will win prime contracts and do it better'

Roy O'Shaughnessy, chief executive of the Shaw Trust, speaking at the same event, echoed many of Grayling’s comments and that there were more and more charities which could compete for government prime contracts.

“There are a number of organisations which have been building infrastructure in the last 30 years,” he said. “If there was ever a time we could win business from the Sercos of this world, it's now.

“It's not easy having a charitable heart and a commercial brain, but it has advantages. Last year we invested £7.2m in the community which in another company would have been given to shareholders.

“I would encourage any charity which wants to be a prime contractor. We will win these contracts and do it better.”

Colin Mardell
5 Mar 2014

To misquote a Henry II, 'Will no one rid is of this mendacious imbecile?' If this or any other government didn't spend so much time creating unfair and unworkable policies it would not be necessary to spend so much time lobbying.

Furthermore, having recently restricted access judicial reviews thereby it will now be near impossible to have government policies scrutinised by the judiciary, thus making it more difficult than ever for charities to make their voices heard.

Ben Wittenberg
Director of Development
Directory of Social Change
5 Mar 2014

There's a laudable goal in there somewhere. Imagine the resources that would be freed up if charities didn't have to campaign to un-screw poorly thought through and un-evidenced government policy decisions, or fight to draw attention to the massive unintended consequences of them (which in many cases would be obvious to a 4 year old).

Richard Piper
CEO
Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity
4 Mar 2014

While I don't have Chris Grayling's full speech in front of me and am therefore am relying on your reporting, it seems that he is more concerned with what's easy for government and MPs than with what is the right thing for charities to do.

The idea that charities shouldn't campaign because they do it more than businesses is just plain weird! It's in the very nature of charities to have campaigning as a key option, unlike businesses. Chris Grayling doesn't haven't to like this (although he should, if he's a democrat) but surely he understands it?

Most shockingly, he apparently criticises charities for being organised in our campaigning but then goes on to say that charities should be *more* organised when it comes to contracts.

If I was more cynical I'd say he wants us to be businesses. Good job that is never going to happen. Chris Grayling: accept the facts. We're different to businesses. We've been here for hundreds of years and we're here to stay, as long as society has problems that need fixing by people coming together. When we need to, we'll campaign with every fibre of our being in the interests of our cause. And we'll only bid for contracts when it makes sense for our beneficiaries and our strategy. If the government or certain MPs aren't able to deal with these facts, then *they* need to get more organised.

Jay Kennedy
Directory of Social Change
Directory of Social Change
4 Mar 2014

Wow. If anyone still had any lingering doubts, the Big Society Emperor truly wears no clothes. If this represents government's position I'd suggest charities need to urgently rethink or at least review their individual and collective relationships with central government and particularly DWP. There are real reputational and even existential risks to going along with this agenda.

Leslie Rowe
Accountant
YWT
4 Mar 2014

Clearly government ministers regard charities as government service providers on the cheap, rather than campaigners for a better society. William Wilberforce and William Booth will be turning in their graves.

Kevin Curley CBE
4 Mar 2014

At least Grayling is a transparent political enemy of the sector. He attacked the campaigning work of charities involved with his wretched Work Programme by insisting on 'gagging' clauses in contracts. Now at the Ministry of Justice he has used legal aid cuts to prevent charities from advocating on behalf of homeless people or those unfairly dismissed. And through the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill he is aiming to stop charities using judicial review to challenge bad government decisions.

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