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Hodgson raises concerns about campaigning by state-funded charities

Hodgson raises concerns about campaigning by state-funded charities
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Hodgson raises concerns about campaigning by state-funded charities7

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 11 Oct 2012

Lord Hodgson is expected to raise concerns about the level of campaigning by charities which get a large proportion of their income from the state at an upcoming Public Administration Select Committee meeting.

Hodgson, who was speaking today at the annual Charity Law Association conference in London, said campaigning organisations were starting to push the envelope substantially: “Members of Parliament come to me and complain that charities are getting involved in areas which are the work of MPs.”

Lord Hodgson highlighted a recent proposal in Queensland, Australia, which has suggested that charities which get more than 50 per cent of their income from the state should not be in a position to undertake campaigning.

“This could create a situation where charities are being funded by government to attack the hand that feeds them.”

The Conservative peer also said that the issue of charities campaigning could confuse the public about the charity brand.

Lord Hodgson is due to give evidence before the Public Administration Select Committee next week and it appears he may raise this issue then.

Charity law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite told civilsociety.co.uk after the speech that it has already given evidence to the Public Administration Select Committee ahead of its meeting with Lord Hodgson, saying that if the charity is operating within its purpose there should be no limit to campaigning activities.

Mike Wade
Director of Fundraising and Communications
NDCS
16 Oct 2012

I remember 20 years ago Oxfam was slated for pointing out the links between apartheid and poverty in South Africa, and campaigning against the evils of the apartheid system. Limiting charities' ability to campaign would force them to provide "sticking plaster" solutions only. Sometimes transformational improvements can only be delivered by structural change . And that usually requires clear, assertive campaigning positions, informed by the charity's grassroots work on the ground.

Matthew Sherrington
Strategy Director
The Good Agency
14 Oct 2012

Charities need to stand up for their independence and speak up more for what they think is right for their mission and beneficiaries, and not be treated as sub-contractors. But many charities don't help themselves by building their business model around contracts, positioning themselves as cost-effective and competitive service providers first, rather than as a values and mission-driven voluntary organisation. They take the public funding that gives them true independence for granted at their peril. Modern day charity is about change, not Victorian welfare, and that means also advocating and campaigning for what they think is right for those they serve.

Alistair Heron
12 Oct 2012

The most disturbing element of all this from my perspective is that some MP's seem to feel that, once we've voted them in, participative democracy is a closed shop:

“Members of Parliament come to me and complain that charities are getting involved in areas which are the work of MPs.”

If this is really what you're being told Lord Hodgson, may I respectfully suggest that you put them right.

Sian Balsom
12 Oct 2012

Totally agree with Bates, Wells & Braithwaite and the comments above. Charities are independent bodies that have to put their beneficiaries first. A vital element of that is issues-based campaigning. Hodgson's proposal demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the history and purpose of charities.

Chris Zealley
Trustee
Charitable Trustee - various
11 Oct 2012


As pointed out above, it is the independent judgement of charity Trustees that is already most at threat from government - wherever state funding is accepted.

If a limitation were to be placed on trustees' right to legitimate campaigning what would be the next limitation ? and the next ?

Carl Allen
12 Oct 2012
Response to [chris zealley]

What next?

Already in progress ... neutering the advances made in whistleblowing, transparency and accountability.

Lynn Cadman
Governance Consultant
Illuminate Governance
11 Oct 2012

Independence - from the State, funders and private interests - is a fundamental principle of charity. A suggestion that it should be compromised by placing a cap on legitimate campaigning fails to recognise this important distinction.

If a Government values the experience and services of a charity enough to fund it, it should also be big enough to listen if that charity disagrees with its policies.

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