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Sir Stuart: NCVO will fight attacks against campaigning

NCVO is ready to fight against any attack on charity campaigns, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO has said today in a speech warning that charities face three major threats when welfare reforms come in this April.

Speaking at an Inside Government event on welfare reform, Sir Stuart outlined three key areas of difficulty facing charities when Universal Credit comes in next month:

  • The logistical challenge of meeting the growing need for advice and support from people struggling to get to grips with the new system
  • The challenge of speaking up on behalf of the most vulnerable in a hostile public opinion environment
  • The challenge of maintaining a constructive working relationship with government while fighting for the best deal for vulnerable people

Sir Stuart warned that while the effects of specific welfare reforms have been explored extensively by organisations representing those concerned, the cumulative effects of the massive welfare reform process, for individual people, families, charities, and local government, are hard to estimate.

He highlighted that charities anticipate benefit recipients will increasingly turn to them for advice and support while a hostile media and public opinion environment is demonising benefit recipients through the highlighting of a handful of extreme examples.

Sir Stuart urged charities “not to shy away” from informing both the public and government when they have got it wrong. “NCVO is ready to fight against any attack on charity campaigning,” Sir Stuart said.

He added: “Charities which speak up about social issues and the potential effects of welfare reform have been met with accusations of politicisation and scaremongering. Maintaining a constructive relationship with government is crucial for the sector, but charities must challenge actions they believe to be unjust.”

He continued: “I am frankly at a loss to understand how, as a country, we’ve got to the point where children’s charities are criticised for speaking up about child poverty.

“Right now, campaigning charities need to hold their nerve. But they must also come together. Such is the scale of the challenge that we have to be more than the sum of our parts. Charities need to rise above their individual silos, to work with each other and with government if they want to achieve change. And we must propose credible options that recognise where we are now and the wider economic reality. Charities have a legitimate role to play – to inform the wider debate as well as the policy and the implementation details.

“A civil society is one that looks after everyone and protects the most vulnerable, not one that demonises them.”

This article was taken from Civil Society – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/14732/