Cuts to aid budget will increase pressure on philanthropic foundations, Labour MP warns

Rushanara Ali says the move is 'heartbreaking, short-sighted and wrong'

Rushanara Ali (Photograph: David Woolfall/Parliament)
Rushanara Ali (Photograph: David Woolfall/Parliament)

"Short-sighted" cuts to the international aid budget will increase the pressure on philanthropic foundations, an opposition MP has warned.  

Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Philanthropy and Social Investment, was speaking as part of the Association of Charitable Foundation’s annual conference earlier today.

She was taking part In an online discussion about how government, foundations and civil society could work together after the coronavirus pandemic, along with Danny Kruger, the Conservative MP for Devizes, and Baroness Barran, the minister for civil society. 

Ali was responding to Kruger’s assertion that even with the new gross domestic product target of 0.5 per cent in aid spending, the UK would still be the second highest aid contributor among the G7 industrial nations, so the effects of the decision should not be exaggerated.

But Ali pointed to reports from ministers in Kruger’s own government that said the cut would cause 100,000 preventable deaths, and accused the government of opportunism by pandering to certain polls that show public support for a cut in the aid budget.

She said it was “heartbreaking, short-sighted, and wrong” because it is an area of policy that often enjoys broad cross-party support.

Ali said the move would increase pressure on philanthropic foundations because they would have to step in to fill the gap in support.

Many charity leaders had already expressed their concern at the decision, and accused the government of breaking a manifesto commitment.

In an attempt to quell growing disapproval, foreign secretary Dominic Raab this afternoon made a statement to the House of Commons in which he said the aid budget would return to 0.7 per cent of GDP “when the fiscal situation allows”.

During the ACF discussion, there was more of a consensus among participants on the need for charities to make use of the government’s Kickstart scheme, which was announced in September.

It is designed to help young people into work and provides funding for six-month job placements for 16- to 24-year-olds who are at risk of long-term unemployment.

Barran said it was crass to suggest the government had “no skin in the game” when it came to the provision of youth services and support, given the amount of money it had put into the sector.

Ali reiterated a call she and more than 60 other parliamentarians made in June for a National Youth Corps.

“I think the government is not being creative enough, despite the funding,” she said.

Kruger agreed there was a big role for civil society to play in the Kickstart scheme.

Baroness Barran said she was keen to work together and listen to all ideas when it came to supporting young people into employment.

Employment minister Mims Davies issued a 'call to action' for charities to participate in the initiative back in October.

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