Third Sector Awards 2014: Introduction

This year's winners tackle tough issues and come up with great ideas, writes Stephen Cook

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

As is usually the case, the winners of the Third Sector Awards this year epitomise the range, the boldness and the brilliance of the work carried out by charities in the UK.

The range is firstly in the cause areas of the winners, which extend from medical research and support to disability, hospice care, criminal justice and the plight of youth at risk. It’s also there in the size of the winners, which include behemoths such as Cancer Research UK and Macmillan Cancer Support, and small outfits with an enterprising style, such as the Prison Radio Association and the Dare2Dream Foundation.

The boldness comes in the way some of these charities tackle difficult or controversial subjects. Take, for example, the UK Network of Sex Work Projects, which wins Small Charity, Big Achiever, or the Coalition for Continuing Care (winner of Big Impact), which persuaded the Scottish government to extend support for looked-after young people.

And the brilliance comes in the great ideas, such as the Citizen Science programme from CRUK, which recruits computer games players to help in the process of examining laboratory slides for signs of cancer. Another example is the winning annual report from the Brandon Trust, which tells the story of the charity’s work from the perspective of one of its beneficiaries with learning difficulties.

This year these awards include the three categories in Britain’s Most Admired Charities, which has previously been a stand-alone event. Celebrity Charity Champion is Jo Brand, the past mistress of rudeness with a smile, who is extraordinarily generous with her support for charities; Most Admired Chief Executive is Julie Bentley of Girlguiding ("the ultimate feminist organisation", in her words); and Most Admired Charity is the Women’s Resource Centre. That’s a first in the history of BMAC – a clean sweep for women.

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