Barnardo’s has said it will not stop tackling “difficult or uncomfortable” issues after a group of Tory MPs attacked the children’s charity over its blog discussing white privilege.
In October, the charity published a piece for parents about what white privilege is and how they can help their children to understand it.
But some Tory MPs took issue with the anti-racism post and have now demanded an investigation by the Charities Commission.
On Friday, 12 members of the Conservative “Common Sense Group” wrote to Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan, accusing the charity of allowing “political dogma” to displace “compassion and generosity”.
The letter was signed by the group’s founder Sir John Hayes, as well as Ashfield MP Lee Anderson and Tory backbenchers Gareth Bacon, Bob Blackman and Sally-Ann Hart.
Fellow Conservative MPs Tom Hunt, Pauline Latham, Sir Edward Leigh, Marco Longhi, Craig Mackinlay, James Sunderland and Henry Smith also put their names to the letter.
In the message, the MPs said it was “as spiteful as it is silly” to suggest that “privilege or prejudice are the exclusive preserve of a particular ethnic group”.
“Unlike the countless materialistic cooperations who consider the promotion of destructive ‘woke’ radicalism in their own financial interests, Barnardo’s are missioned to elevate those struggling with poverty and deprivation.”
The blog about white privilege will come as a “bitter blow” to many working class families, they added.
Meanwhile, former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey accused Barnardo’s of “diverting its attention to political activism”.
“This is such a misguided and misjudged move away from what the charity is about and what it ought to be doing,” she wrote in a comment piece for The Telegraph.
Responding to the letter from MPs, Barnardo’s – the UK’s largest children’s charity – said it had a responsibility “to raise awareness of all issues affecting children – no matter how difficult or uncomfortable”.
Explaining the nature of white privilege to them, the charity said: “For the one in five Barnardo’s service users who are Black, Asian or minority ethnic, the colour of their skin is an additional factor that negatively affects them and their families in a multitude of well documented ways.
“Those who nurture the next generation of children should therefore be supported in understanding racial inequality in all its complexity, so that they in turn can find appropriate ways of discussing this with children – much in the same way other big parenting conversations happen already.”
The charity added: “We certainly don’t believe Britain is racist or that anyone should feel guilt about being from a particular background.
“We do know that in our country in 2020 being non-white creates particular and additional needs – indeed the blog itself was written based on what children in our services told us they wanted to convey. To be ‘colour blind’ would be to fundamentally fail in our duty to address the needs of these children.
“It is in that spirit we keep on raising awareness of the issues that affect this group – and we hope you will join us in doing so.”
The charity has received messages of support from a number of Labour MPs, including influential shadow justice secretary David Lammy, who tweeted: “Thank you @barnardos. As the father of an adopted child your commitment to standing up for children from all backgrounds means the world.”
Shadow women and equalities secretary Marsha de Cordova also backed Barnardo’s, as did Labour’s Naz Shah, who thanked the charity for being “a shining example of how things should be done”.