OPINION: Hot Issue - Is the press criticism of the NSPCC's campaigning fair?

The NSPCC came under fire last week in The Daily Telegraph for spending too much on advertising and not enough on services. The attack follows the Lord Laming inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie during which the charity was criticised for not intervening to protect the child from her abusive relatives.

Gary Streeter, director, Renewing One Nation and MP for South West Devon - YES

I am very pleased that large national charities campaign against the evil of child abuse. But they should do so with clarity and perspective.

The recent NSPCC crusade was wrong to confuse its message by equating smacking with child abuse. This is a slur to millions of parents, including my wife and myself, who have found that a judiciously applied smack can help in the difficult struggle to teach a child right from wrong. It was quite simply offensive.

Voluntary organisations should of course be free to be offensive if they wish. In one sense that is the whole point of being outside the statutory and governmental box. If the brains behind the recent campaign really believe that their message is the right one, fine. But equally they must accept that the public has the right to know what they have done with the money so freely donated. The media is right to scrutinise these important decisions and draw them to our attention.

Robert Whelan, director, Civitas - YES

There is nothing wrong with charities spending money on advertising.

The NSPCC's argument that it is not just there to deal with the children who are abused, but to take a preventative approach by trying to change public perceptions of abuse is valid.

The problems arise when the expenditure on the charity's main area of activity - or what the public thinks is its main area - falls to a very low level (less than half, in this case).

The NSPCC's advertising is highly emotive. The images of child prostitutes, so much in evidence last year, would get most people reaching for their cheque books. Would they be so keen to give if they knew their money was being spent on yet more advertising?

There is also the question of the NSPCC's performance in the Victoria Climbie case, which raises serious concerns as to how well the charity carries out its core functions. These issues need to be resolved before any more consciousness-raising is embarked on.

John Grounds, director of communications, NSPCC - NO

We are the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

For more than 120 years, we have been a potent campaigning force and will continue this through the FULL STOP push to end child abuse.

Our campaigns have influence and, crucially, campaigning is what our donors expect us to do. The NSPCC is not sacrificing services in favour of campaigns. We are spending more than ever before on services and they will remain the cornerstone of what we do. But, campaigning is a service too.

Just dealing, however effectively, with abused children that come to the attention of the authorities will not help the two-thirds of children who never tell about abuse. Our campaigning works for them.

The NSPCC is by no means the top children's charity advertiser and our expenditure on campaigning advertising is carefully targeted. Attitudes to children are clearly influenced by our campaigns.

Miriam Solly, director of marketing, NCH - NO

To compare NSPCC's spending on campaigning with that of NCH is quite unfair. We are two very different organisations, positioned at opposite ends of the third-sector spectrum.

NSPCC is clear that its mission is to end child abuse and that its primary means for doing this is by campaigning and raising public awareness. Consequently, the NSPCC needs to demonstrate to its supporters how it is helping to end child abuse.

Conversely, NCH's purpose is to provide services for vulnerable children, young people and their families. We provide more children's services than any other UK organisation, with a significant proportion of our income coming from statutory sources. At NCH our task is to demonstrate to our supporters the exceptional qualities of our services that are only made possible through their donations.

The media presentation of charities rarely recognises the sophistication and diversity of the third sector. This superficiality is a problem as it erodes trust, and therefore support, for us all. It also pitches charities against one another, when instead we should be recognising and playing to one another's strengths.

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