The vice-president of children’s charity Barnardo's has hit back at a group of Conservative MPs who dismissed the charity’s talk about white privilege as “ideological dogma”.
The charity faced a flood of racist comments after it began tweeting about white privilege and what could be done to tackle it and create a fairer society following a blog post at the end of October.
The ensuing storm prompted a statement signed by more than 200 charity leaders that backed the work the charity was doing.
“In particular we offer our support to Barnardo’s CEO Javed Khan and all other black, Asian and minoritised ethnic leaders for the racism directed at them because of their organisations’ important work on white privilege,” it said.
Despite this, the charity received a letter last week from the Common Sense parliamentary group, which claims the term white privilege is “ideological dogma” used “by certain multinational corporates as a means to divide and conquer”.
The same group of Conservative MPs criticised the National Trust after it published a report researching its properties’ historic links to slavery, despite the Charity Commission receiving just three complaints about its work.
Signatories to the letter include Sir Edward Leigh, the MP for Gainsborough; Marco Longhi, the MP for Dudley North; Craig Mackinlay, the MP for South Thanet; James Sunderland, the MP for Bracknell; and Henry Smith, the MP for Crawley.
The letter concludes: “We have written to the chair of the Charity Commission, to request that she investigates whether this foray into political activism is compatible with Barnardo’s noble purpose and charitable status.”
A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “We are considering concerns raised with us about Barnardo’s in line with our regulatory framework.
“We are unable to comment further at this time.”
David Barnardo, vice-president of the charity, criticised the MPs' letter, saying the charity was “as committed as ever to representing and advocating for all vulnerable children”, but could not be “colour blind”.
He said: “While poverty and disadvantage are a reality for children [of] all backgrounds, colours and creeds – across our UK services, day in, day out, we see that black, Asian and minority ethnic children face additional challenges as well.
“On top of experiencing poverty, lack of access to opportunity, childhood trauma, multiple forms of abuse, and criminal exploitation, this group is also treated less fairly at school, by employers, and by the criminal justice system. They have poorer housing, and poorer health outcomes.”
Barnardo said the charity would continue to raise issues that mattered for all vulnerable children, regardless of where they were born, how much their parents earned, or the colour of their skin.
“Sometimes that conversation will be uncomfortable, but avoiding discussion of issues that are deeply important for entire communities of people is no longer acceptable,” he said.