Charities dub report on ‘politically motivated’ campaigning ‘inaccurate’

15 Dec 2022 News

A number of charities have criticised a report by a Conservative pressure group that urged the government to defund “politically motivated” campaigning organisations.

The report by Conservative Way Forward, chaired by backbench MP Greg Smith, condemns the government’s funding of charities that campaign on issues such as refugee and LGBT rights.

It claims that charities are directing more resources towards politically motivated campaigns “which offer no productive value to the taxpayer and which create unnecessary division and toxicity in our political discourse”.

Defunding Politically Motivated Campaigns looks at government grants to charities, of around £778m per year, which it says “waste taxpayers’ money” and “cause public disturbances, commit crimes, block roads and frustrate the government’s policies in the courts”.  

It adds “significant sums of public money” are being directed towards charitable organisations “engaging in politically motivated campaigns” and states that “public funding of these projects should, of course, be stopped immediately”.

The report cites organisations such as the National Lottery Community Fund, Refugee Council and Stonewall as examples.

Refugee Action, Unseen and Refugee Council all stated that much of the information in the paper, regarding their organisations, was incorrect. Others defended their decisions to speak out on issues relevant to their objects.

On Sunday morning, a letter from 40 Tory MPs was sent to chancellor Jeremy Hunt saying taxes are too high and offering suggestions of how to lower them by £7bn, via the recommendations in the paper.

‘Completely appropriate’ for government to work with Stonewall 

It criticises LGBTQ+ charities for “attacking” government and references the April 2022 “mass boycott” of the government’s ‘Safe to be me’ conference.

The event, “that cost several hundred thousand pounds of taxpayer funds in itself” was cancelled “after over 100 charities (led by Stonewall) which have received a further £140m from the Government since 2017, used the opportunity to make a political statement about the government’s approach to conversion therapy”.

Robbie De Santos, director of communication and external affairs said Stonewall’s initiatives have helped to drive down homophobia, adding: “It is completely appropriate for the UK government to work with civil society organisations like Stonewall in support of their domestic and global LGBTQ+ initiatives.”

‘Recommendations in the report would save the taxpayer £0’

The report states that between 2017 and 2021 the government gave £203m to charities that have criticised its plan to process illegal immigrants in Rwanda. It cited organisations such as Refugee Action, the Refugee Council, Unseen, Bond and Migrant Help.

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive of Refugee Action, said: “This report is inaccurate. No government money is used in our campaign work – which comes from ringfenced funding from other sources. The recommendation in the report would save the taxpayer £0.”

He added the money the charity does receive from the government goes towards delivering its programmes, including resettlement schemes for refugees who have fled Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan.

“We would love to invite the report’s authors to visit us so they can understand how we are funded and how government money directly supports refugees to rebuild their lives in the UK,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Refugee Council spokesperson said: "We do not receive government funding other than in relation to contracted services, such as a Home Office project to support unaccompanied children."

‘We shall be asking the authors of this report to correct this inaccuracy’

Migrant Help said that as a charity that has worked with displaced people for nearly 60 years, “we have a duty to make our views clear on proposed government policy, before it is implemented”. 

It added: “Our experience makes us well placed to advise policy-makers – and expressing our opinion on proposals (before they are implemented as policy/law) is not in breach of the conditions of our Home Office contract.”

Migrant Help said it has not made any monetary donation to Care4Calais, as alleged in this report, “and we shall be asking the authors of this report to correct this inaccuracy”. 

Unseen charity also said the statement relating to the charity “is not factually correct”.

“We don’t receive anything like £5m from government. As a charity working to end modern slavery, we receive just over £1m to support victims of modern slavery under the Victim Care Contract – as can be seen in our annual accounts, which are available for all.

“The funding we get from government goes into ensuring that survivors recover from their trauma and can rebuild their lives in a safe and supportive environment.”

Unseen added: “Certain parts of the media and some politicians often deliberately conflate modern slavery with immigration, which is wrong. The two things are entirely different. Modern slavery is a crime against the individual, and affects UK and non-UK nationals alike.” 

Simon Starling, director of Bond the UK network for INGOs said “it is both legal and legitimate for us to speak out” on these issues.

He added: “We take great care to ensure compliance with the Cabinet Office Guidance for General Grants, Charity Commission regulation, and our funding agreement with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. We are a non-partisan organisation that meets the highest transparency standards.”

NLCF criticised in report 

The report also states the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) has “wasted” £452m on politics and environmental groups campaign groups.

A spokesperson from the NLCF said: “We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK. We are proud to support people and communities with the things that are important to them. 

“This includes supporting communities with some of the biggest issues faced today including climate change, cost of living and rebuilding from Covid.”

The report also makes claims about Arts Council England and funding for the campaign called OF/BY/FORALL.

The organisation said: “Fairness and inclusion are really important to us, and we work with the organisations we fund to ensure they are representative of, and giving opportunities to, all parts of society. As the development agency for culture and creativity we commissioned OF/BY/FORALL to create information to explain inclusion tailored for cultural organisations in England.

“These are part of a number of resources we have to support any cultural organisation, including those we fund. None of these resources are mandatory and none use the term "unlearn whiteness".”

Nicole Sykes, director of policy and communications at think tank Pro Bono Economics, noted several inaccuracies in the report.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


More on