Make or break time for charities and the voluntary sector

Penny Waterhouse is pessimistic about the future of charities and voluntary groups as independent forces

Penny Waterhouse
Penny Waterhouse

The future of charities and voluntary groups as an independent force for social change looks bleaker than at any other time.

Why is it a surprise to anyone that public trust has fallen and so much reputational damage done? When charities outsource fundraising to harass donations out of people, compete aggressively for a share of privatised public services and form partnerships with profit-hungry global corporations, it is no wonder that the public has become cynical and suspicious.

And it is no surprise that government is targeting the campaigning work of charities, in efforts to shut down opposition to the policies that are damaging millions of poor and vulnerable people.

Back in 2006 when we started, our message - that voluntary groups were losing their independence and must fight back – was seen as scare mongering and off beam. The truth of this has now been accepted throughout the voluntary sector, with the consequences only too visible. NCIA does not need to make the case any longer; nobody can say they have not been warned.

But NCIA cannot rescue voluntary groups from the mess they are now in – only they can do it, if they so choose. So we have decided to stop and we leave with pride and gratitude.

The future lies with new alliances and ways of organising amongst voluntary and community groups, activists, unions, academics and others determined to halt the erosion of our social protections, the rise of gross inequality, the worship of profit and the demonisation of those damaged by such ideologies.

Penny Waterhouse is co-convenor of the National Coalition for Independent Action

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