Whose work is it to make sure children in the UK aren't hungry? That they have shoes, that they're not sleeping with their cots jammed up against a mouldy wall, or in a house infested with rats?It’s the work of their parents, Zoe. You’re welcome.
She isn’t finished, though:
The charity Action for Children published figures showing that two thirds of their centre managers were seeing children without enough to eat. Its chief executive, Helen Donohoe, spoke to Radio 4's Woman's Hour about the pressures families were under, giving the example of a rat-infested house – the children couldn't sleep, the father was so sleep-deprived that he lost his job, the mother had mental health problems anyway, and "we enabled them, through housing support and advocacy, to get rehoused". That's great, but I'm left with unanswered questions: who thought that was appropriate housing for a family?Surely a better question would be ‘who thought it appropriate to start a family under those conditions?’..? Zoe, however, thinks the problem is with…charities!
There are three problems. First, charities need access to ministers; if they alienate them, they won't even get into the room, and that is more important than worrying about what concessions you've exacted before you leave.Charities don’t seem particularly bothered about alienating the government; they are always issuing scathing press releases and commissioning reports claiming that the government isn’t doing enough.
The government never seems to mind, either. It never blacklists any particular charity. No CEO has to stand in the cold with his nose pressed up against the window on No 10 Downing Street, watching forlornly as all the other charity bigwigs tuck in to champagne and canapés.
One might almost conclude from this that it’s all a game they play…
Second, charities are legally excluded from party politics, and in the more consensual age just passed, this meant avoiding saying anything directly critical of the government. This message got so deep into the political bloodstream that when Save the Children launched its campaign in September, to help UK children who were going hungry and without shoes, it was slated in right-wing circles for "politicising" the issue, even though to avoid politics would have meant avoiding poverty altogether.Yes, I’m sure the ‘Guardian’ would happily sit by and refuse to criticise a charity which, say, pointed out that unrestricted immigration was putting pressure on our infrastructure…
Third, the relationship between government and larger charities has been compromised by the fact that charities run so many services. Barnardo's gets around three quarters of its income from commissions to run services, and only a quarter from fundraising. The Children's Society only gets a third of its budget from government, but that's enough to make an adversarial position impossible.Ah, now you’re talking! Good idea, Zoe, let’s immediately abolish government funding for charities! Let ‘em stand on their own two feet with the donations from the public, hmm?
Who's opposing the benefit cap? Who's calling for a ringfence of council tax benefits for families in need? Who's arguing to maintain the child tax credit threshold? Who's fighting against families being rehoused miles away from their children's school? Who's calling for more social housing?Looks like it’s just….well, you, Zoe. And the rest of the progressives. Judging by the comments, though, the rest of us are finally getting a bit hacked off with it all...