The attacks on Kids Company are becoming an attack on the charity sector

The Mail’s latest Kids Company exposé attacks the charity for employing two children of one of their trustees – the former WH Smith CEO, Richard Handover.

Coming on the back of all the other questions and very public implosion of the charity, I have to admit it doesn’t look great, but the Mail have certainly done all they can to present it in a very negative light.

That’s what the Mail do, so I am not surprised they’ve got their hatchet out. To my mind what started as a solid piece of investigative journalism – exposing the nasty politicking going on between Government and the Charity’s senior leadership – has become something more sinister: a concerted attack on the charity sector.

Employing relatives or – to use the formal term – ‘related parties’ by charities is governed by clear guidelines, in much the same way as public bodies are governed. It is not illegal but it must be fully disclosed, there should (clearly) be no preferential treatment given – for example awarding a contract to a family member just because they are family. In short they should be the right person for the job and the beneficiaries interests best served by their appointment.

Looking at the Mail’s report, it appears to me – at least on the face of it – that Miss Handover is suitably qualified for the role, has done a good job fundraising and organising events and her salary seems entirely consistent with that sort of work.

There doesn’t seem to be any suggestion that the employment hasn’t been properly disclosed – indeed it was from the accounts that the Mail has drawn the facts for their article.

The language of ‘expensive foreign trips’ and ‘taxpayer subsidised charity’ suggests jaunts paid for at the public’s expense, rather than someone travelling as part of their job to raise funds for the charity.

This is becoming an attack on charities, how they operate and what they stand for.

Kids Company and its flamboyant chief executive has long divided opinion within the sector. The marmite effect. Their ability to raise huge amounts of money from high profile supporters, to schmooze successive Prime Ministers (I remember first meeting Camila at a reception that Gordon Brown hosted in Downing Street when he was Chancellor in the late 90s) has raised an eyebrow or two. Coupled with a suggestion that their claims of impact went some way beyond the reality – something many other successful fundraising charities are complicit in. Kids Company did good work. But they did not make many friends in the sector by overstating their impact.

Now, when they fell out with their Ministerial supporters and the bottom fell out of their over-extended business model, the sector has not been rallying round in their defence in quite the way it might.

We need to put aside our concerns about the rights and wrongs of Kids Company and recognise the credibility and reputation of the charity sector as a whole is under attack. The Mail – which is merely the vanguard of charity sector attacker – has charities and not for profit groups in its sights. I suspect they are happily playing ‘bad cop’ to the government’s agenda of cutting any and every state supported charity back to the bone.

This is a politically and philosophically motivated attack. Like the public sector cuts that have decimated our public services since 2010, now the charity sector – which has picked up much of the slack arising from public service cuts – is under attack.

Those in the charity sector and all concerned with social justice would do well to remember Martin Niemöller’s famous quote reminding us of the importance of solidarity.

First they came for the Kids Company, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Kids Company.

Thankfully we are not facing genocide – and I do not wish to compare the attacks on the charity sector with the Holocaust, but I think that Niemöller’s words are equally applicable to a less horrific attack that is now underway.

 

UPDATE

I thought it was bad. I just realised it’s worse.

If you don’t believe the attack on charities that is underway, have a look at this petition calling for an end to government funding of all charities: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105732

and this article in the Financial Times calling for charity tax reliefs to be abolished: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/01c7a2b0-3ce3-11e5-bbd1-b37bc06f590c.html?siteedition=uk#axzz3iW80OUjh

Don’t say I didn’t warn you

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