Jill Kirby (Centre for Policy Studies) a few Wednesdays ago on the Today programme:

Charities “spend[] too much time lobbying rather than focussing on problems on the ground” (around 3:30). “A lot of the big children’s charities have become very political in leading the End Child Poverty campaign… Ending child poverty is a good thing, but it’s a political question. Actually, the best way in which a charity can help children in poverty is doing the kind of outreach that many small charities do do… its actually being on the ground, providing a place of refuge…” (3:40-4:15)

A charity dedicated to ending child poverty cannot legitimately seek to influence government to end child poverty? Surely a charity, given its work “on the ground”, is ideally placed to pass on to government its insight into the source of the problem.

For Kirby, alleviating the failures of a suboptimal system is a charity’s proper place; improving the system is “political”. In her ideal, charities should work only to hide the system’s endemic flaws, regardless of the fact that they are propping up the very source of the problems they seek to end.

Seen and not heard, indeed.

“My concern is that when people put their hands in their pockets to support a charity, they want to know what it is a charity can do that government won’t do — if government can do these things it will do them, but what charities do is… charities are there on the ground looking after the disadvantaged, so their way of helping children in poverty will not be to go out and pester a politician.” (5:05-5:30)

“Is there a direct connection between the person giving the money and what they are helping? — in other words are they saving a child’s life, a bird’s life, are they stopping cruelty in some way? Now, yes, there may be some indirect result through the campaigning the charity is doing… but the most important added value which a charity can provide, which a government can’t provide, is actually being on the ground, actually saving lives, saving children, being there for those who need them. Its not actually being in parliament, being a lobby group.” (5:54-6:25)