Charities slam Tory proposals

Charities have described the Conservative Party's proposals to prevent social breakdown as "naïve" and "simplistic".

Breakthrough Britain, a 670-page report published on Tuesday by the Social Justice Policy Group, chaired by former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, proposes an enhanced role for charities in social cohesion. But it appears many charities do not share the group's vision.

Many are particularly concerned by the group claiming family breakdown is the main cause of social decay and calling for tougher action to persuade people to work.

"Iain Duncan Smith's recognition that the reasons for social exclusion are complex is in stark contrast to the simplistic solutions that he proposes," said Turning Point chief executive Lord Victor Adebowale. "His suggestion that harm reduction programmes like needle exchanges and methadone prescriptions should not be continued, flies in the face of evidence that, alongside the abstinence initiatives he favours, a spectrum of treatment solutions actually work."

John Knight, head of policy and campaigns at disability charity Leonard Cheshire, was equally critical. "The proposals show a simplistic understanding of the reality for disabled job seekers," he said. "Without a strategy to engage with employers to challenge their negative attitudes the employment rate among disabled people is unlikely to improve, regardless of how many hours disabled people are required to spend looking for a job."

Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Kate Green said the factors behind marital breakdown sometimes existed even before a relationship started. "The Conservatives must be careful not to jump to naive conclusions about complex problems," she added.

NCH chief executive Clare Tickell echoed the concern by saying "one size no longer fits all". She added: "Creating stigma is counterproductive and will only push families to the extreme margins of society."

However, the report won some praise. David Chater, head of policy and external affairs at young people's charity Rainer, said it was a positive sign that the policy group had moved beyond the big-small charity debate that it had previously focussed on to look at the issue in detail.

NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington also praised the report's "insightful proposals".

"The focus on increasing charitable giving, strengthening the Compact and tackling VAT reform is particularly welcome. We are also delighted that the report backs NCVO's proposals for a Third Sector Select Committee and a dedicated Third Sector research body, similar to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

"NCVO will now be considering the report in depth and will publish our full response soon. We therefore look forward to working with David Cameron, Iain Duncan Smith, Greg Clark and others in the Conservative Party to consider how these proposals and principles can be developed into detailed policies."

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