A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.
In this week’s blog, Charlee Bewsher from Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and Humber looks at the role of faith organisations and whether charities should be meeting the needs of young people or challenging the causes of issues facing young people.
“When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” – Archbishop Dom Helder Camara
Last week it was announced that the Government if going to insert a clause into all new and renewed grant agreements with charities, it reads:
“The following costs are not Eligible Expenditure:- Payments that support activity intended to influence or attempt to influence Parliament, Government or political parties, or attempting to influence the awarding or renewal of contracts and grants, or attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action.”
This rule was piloted by the Department for Communities and Local Government over the last year and is in response to concerns over the behaviour of charities, highlighted in the media. This clause does not stop organisations from political lobbying if they use privately raised funds, but they will inevitably need to prove which monies were spent on what.
So what is the role of charities? Is it to improve people’s lives and good causes, as suggested by the Government? Or to question the causes of the conditions which give rise to those needs? How will this impact on organisations or projects that try and give a voice to their communities? Will this be considered political lobbying? What is political lobbying? Will independent grant givers fill this funding gap, if some charities feel they can’t compromise or see a difference between responding to need and trying to prevent that need in the first place?
Do faith groups, with access to independent funding, have an ever increasing role in speaking out on behalf of communities, as the Government doesn’t seem to mind them doing so? But how does this fit with a secular society that is ever fearful of religion? I am aware that it was faith groups that ultimately enabled the Government to enact equal marriage, run one of the largest chains of food banks in the UK, and that many of our major charities were started as an expression of faith; many retaining their core values of social justice, equality, etc. But this is not new, think back to criticism made of RSPCA and Oxfam and the introduction of the lobbying bill.
Many charities will face difficult questions: to apply for Government funding, look elsewhere, or close? Or do we instead need a new definition of political lobbying?
Charlee Bewsher, Youth Work Unit – Yorkshire and Humber