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Trussell Trust told ‘the government might try to shut you down’

Trussell Trust told ‘the government might try to shut you down’
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Trussell Trust told ‘the government might try to shut you down’9

Governance | Alice Sharman | 11 Jun 2014

The chair of the Trussell Trust has said that the charity made a decision to tone down its criticisms of the benefit system after someone in power warned them that they could get shut down.

Chris Mould, chair of the Trussell Trust, was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector yesterday when he said that the charity, which aims to tackle poverty, had been criticised by the government for raising awareness of the need for foodbanks.

He said that he had seen several examples of how “people in power do pretty inappropriate things at times to try and curb and curtail independence of a voluntary organisation when it proves to be inconvenient to them”.

Mould, who made it clear that the charity was not a campaigning organisation, told the panel that most of these examples had arisen in private conversations with those in power.

'Government might try to shut you down'

He said that in a face-to-face conversation in March 2013 with "someone in power", he was told that he must think more carefully otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.

Mould said: “This was spoken in anger, but is the kind of dialogue that can occur. It exposes the way people think in the political world about their relationship with the voluntary sector when things are getting difficult. What can we do?”

The charity then took the decision to tone down its criticisms so that the government would maintain its contact. Mould said that this decision was a response of a “positive nature”.

He also spoke of another example of when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions' office contacted him in 2011 in response to publication of the Trussell Trust’s concerns about the benefits system.

Mould said he received a phone call on his day off “from someone in the Secretary of State’s office which was basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiencies in the benefits system”.

However Mould, who spoke of “ongoing efforts to belittle the organisation” by the government, said that a decision made by the charity’s trustees in 2005 that they would avoid seeking government funding meant that they were in a better position to resist government pressure.

Mould also spoke of how the charity's commitment to professionalism, including its expanding trustee board which attempts to cover all areas of expertise, and the quality of the statistics it produces, gave the charity more capacity to resist pressure.

Earlier this year, a criticial article by the Daily Mail about the Trussell Trust led to the charity's appeal raising more than £50,000 in two days.

Blanche Jones, campaigns director at 38 degrees, also spoke to the panel yesterday about the reception the organisation receives from politicians.

The campaigning organisation received criticism last year from Conservative MP Peter Bottomley who said that 38 Degrees was one of several organisations whose members were spamming the inboxes of MPs causing them “chaos”.

Jones said that she wished government would see this engagement as a more positive thing, as such comments from MPs contribute to a “growing feeling of disengagement and disempowerment”.

Oxfam reported to Charity Commission

A new political attack on charities was seen yesterday when a Tory MP revealed that he is reporting Oxfam to the Charity Commission for its “perfect storm” promotional campaign on austerity. Conor Burns, Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, said the campaign was "overtly political and aimed at the policies of the current government".

Isobel Ford
23 Jun 2014

A quote from Brazil:
"When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist."
Dom Hélder Pessoa Câmara ;

Jonny Wineberg
Director
Community Futures Trust CIC
15 Jun 2014

I now work with several foodbanks, which the Trussell Trust has supported. They are some of the best examples of local voluntary action one could ever hope to see.

I have no doubt that this is what those is government would say. They need to be more circumspect as well as more respectful of the efforts of those supporting the most vulnerable in our society.

Chris Mould should also be prepared to 'name and shame'. Such government comments should never be viewed as private.

Andrew Johnston
14 Jun 2014

George Orwell was only 30 years out. Shows how paranoid this awful government is about being criticised...

James Renton
13 Jun 2014

Another issue here is that while it all well and good to come out later and say you had been threatened - but it would have been far more effective to have done so at the time of the threat! In effect the threat worked and the person involved has not been named. The Daily Mail are always going to go for them anyway - so attack has to be the best form of of defence?

Roy Bennett
Director
WORLD FEDERATION OF HEALING COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY
13 Jun 2014

Jim:- absolutely spot on, Andy, no chance, where is Spitting image now we need them so badly, its uncanny remembering them and the miners, steelworkers, dockers and other union leaders 30 years ago, who so eloquently forecast what we are now witnessing, zero hour contracts, cowed voices of dissent, the increasing divide between the haves and have nots, welcome to free market Britain where "we are all in it together".

Andy Gregg
CEO
Race on the Agenda
12 Jun 2014

Creeping authoritarianism - a really serious danger to the independence of the sector and to the role of civil society itself. What chance that voluntary sector leaders will raise this as loudly as they should?

Carl Allen
11 Jun 2014

Bit strange strategy, but martyrdom is martyrdom.

Carl Allen
11 Jun 2014

" The chair of the Trussell Trust has said that the charity made a decision to tone down its criticisms of the benefit system after someone in power warned them that they could get shut down ".

Yet the decision means the very issue the Trusts seeks to remedy
will continue and likely grow.

And so through no fault of it's own the Trust must continue to grow to meet need. This particular organisational growth is irreconcilable in principle.

Is this good governance?


Jim
11 Jun 2014

Unbelievable you should increase the volume of your concerns having published the implied threats made - Absolutely disgusting and typical of the way this goverment is operating

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