The UK’s vote to leave the European Union was a reminder to charities to be more aware of the dangers of "parachuting" into beneficiaries’ lives without consulting them, according to the chief executive of the Barrow Cadbury Trust.
Speaking at an event hosted by the think tank NPC in London this morning entitled ‘Can charities heal the divisions in society?’, Sara Llewellin told delegates that the Leave vote could be explained by large numbers of people feeling left behind by globalisation.
She observed many charity beneficiaries had voted to leave the EU, as evidenced by data showing a strong correlation between European Social Fund recipients and areas that voted to leave, while many charity professionals had voted to remain because "most people in this room benefit from migration".
She said: "Part of what the Leave vote told me was to increase our transparency and accountability and to be more aware that parachuting into other people’s realities without consulting them is dangerous."
Llewellin said the sector should listen to communities rather than lecture them and do more to open up dialogue and broker alliances on a local level. "The only possible answer is bottom up, not top down," she said.
She also said charities were suffering from declining trust and were now less trusted than the supermarkets. She said this indicated that could actually increase the divisions in society "unless we consciously, deliberately and purposefully make it otherwise."
Llewellin said one of the sector’s greatest responsibilities in the post-referendum environment was to lobby the government to maintain funding levels for poorer people and communities.
She said universities, farmers and scientific communities were all working hard looking after their own interests. "May I suggest this is one of our own sector’s keenest responsibilities?" she said.