The Blog

Time to Reflect and Refocus

Last week was a very depressing one with several alarming revelations related to the state of British society.

Last week was a very depressing one with several alarming revelations related to the state of British society. An utterly shocking story of modern day slavery in our neighbourhoods with three women in Lambeth rescued due to the work of a heroic small community charity is only one example of the abhorrent existence of modern day slavery and neighbourhood trafficking.

The disgraceful alleged behaviour of Paul Flowers has proved an embarrassment not just to Ed Miliband and the Co-operative movement, but also to the charities which were happy to have him on their boards.

Then the absurd Mr Hurd's comments on youth policy thinking that a funding solution to one big charity will solve the issues of those that are being forgotten at the bottom of the social chain. No one charity can own an issue, a disease or an illness. The crowding out of small dynamic gritty community charities that are in the heart of local communities by big brand charities with their slick marketing and celebrity or political ambassadors will hurt us all.

So when you see the expensive Christmas charity campaigns, adverts and inserts in nearly every newspaper and clogging up your letterboxes plaintively seeking your donations, or the extravagant charity Christmas events, I would urge you to look to closer to home, to the amazing local charities in your community, the projects and the neighbour who may be lonely or isolated and support them.

The people who donate so generously to charitable organisations that have been exploited must be appalled. For a charity to satisfy the management condition, its managers and trustees must be 'fit and proper persons'. Charities have to become more professional if they are not to remain sitting ducks for men like Flowers, and, for that matter, Jimmy Savile, who clearly involved themselves in them for what they could get out of them, and not what they could put in.

The salaries of charity executives, the proportion of money that is actually given to good causes as opposed to the bureaucracy of the organisations and, most important of all, the whole way that their people are recruited and vetted, all now need to be looked at as a matter of urgency.

We have every right to expect people who manage our charities - who sit on their boards and act as their trustees - to set examples and their recruitment should be conducted, with all the professionalism and vigour we have come to expect in the private sector. The reputation of the country's charities is at stake, and, for the sake of the increasing numbers of people who depend upon them, and who give to them so generously, it is time for Government to compel them to get a grip. The Charity Commission has repeatedly shown itself to be ineffective and amateurish.

And from a donor perspective we all need to become smarter givers and look beyond the gloss and slick marketing and identify the smaller, more efficient charities that are doing unique work and who operate with a more business minded approach to charity finance and administrative structures. This should prompt much needed collaboration, rationalisation and increased professionalism that is desperately needed to unlock the potential of our 'at risk youth', vulnerable and those slipping ever deeper into poverty and despair."

Gina Miller, Philanthropist and transparency campaigner

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