This conflicting advice is enough to drive you insane

The sector needs a damn good telling off from other people, writes Martin Edwards

Martin Edwards
Martin Edwards

You know what the charity sector really needs? A damn good telling off from other people, that's what.

We need highly paid media commentators to rage at how charity staff are overpaid, and for MPs to say our wages are rising too much at the same time as unions are telling us that they aren't rising enough. We also need to stop exploiting young people by paying them nothing at all (they're actually called 'volunteers') while meeting the public's desire for charities to be staffed only by volunteers.

We need to be encouraged to bid for more public sector commissioning contracts and then to be criticised for being too dependent on government funding.

We need to be told that management and administration is a waste of money but to be held to account for the consequences of poor managerial and administrative standards.

We need people to tell us that there are too many charities and that we should merge more, because in other sectors the biggest structures are clearly the most responsive and efficient, especially if they're often restructured frequently.

We need bigger and more complex bureaucracy, because when public sector inspectors or commissioners require us to produce registers of information assets, diversibility (sic) training, room risk assessments and a policy on policy-making, they obviously know what they're doing.

We need Charity Commission investigations into the few badly governed charities to continue to be swift, decisive and fearless, and for such investigations to promote learning across the whole sector.

We need to be told our society is best when it's big, or local, and that national volunteering initiatives are the answer to a shortage of volunteers. That is something we would worry about a lot if we weren't busy interviewing potential new volunteers.

We need politicians writing in newspapers that we should stop giving ourselves awards, because shining a light on good practice isn't important, and we're over-represented in national honours lists anyway.

We need to be the sector that causes the least concern about client and patient safety, yet also be the sector whose opinions on such safety issues are dismissed as excessive campaigning. We need ministers to tell us about the importance of impact measurement but to ignore modest impact returns of their pet projects. We need the Compact governing the relationship between government and our sector to be unheard of by many government officials dealing with us.

Finally, we need our two foremost leaders, Sir Stephen Bubb of Acevo and Sir Stuart Etherington of the NCVO, to voice divergent opinions on almost everything, and for the one who is wrong most of the time to get most of the headlines.

Am I the only one that feels this way? Or maybe I am mad and everyone else is sane ...

Martin Edwards is chief executive of the children's hospice Julia's House

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