Ministers don't understand the third sector, argues Debra Allcock Tyler from the Directory of Social Change in response to George Osborne's fifth budget
Amid signs of economic recovery Chancellor George Osborne delivered his fifth budget this week, but there was a dearth of initiatives to support charities and the voluntary sector and the much trailed Transition Fund to help struggling charities failed to materialise.
In his statement Chancellor George Osborne did announce that fines on the banks for the Libor scandal would be used to continue to support military charities, and that this would be extended to support scouts, guides, and emergency services charities. The Red Book did not offer much in the way of further details, referring only to grants for air ambulance and inland safety boat charities. Osborne also said that he was taking measures to relieve VAT on fuel for air ambulances.
The Government seems obsessed with supporting for-profit business and economic growth above all else
These are of course all very worthy and important causes, but it has to be said they are popular with many politicians. They seem hand-picked to deliver positive headlines for the government. What about the multitude of other equally important and vital causes? Like helping victims of human trafficking, looking after isolated and neglected older people, counselling those who have experienced sexual violence, reaching out to get troubled youth and offenders on the right track, to name just a few?
Those causes aren’t necessarily as popular or comfortable with politicians. They don’t usually yield the ‘right’ kind of headlines. It’s great this money is coming into the sector, but it’s ridiculous that the Chancellor gets to decide what causes it goes to. And despite these announcements, I think overall the charity sector is turning into the forgotten sector under this government. Most of the other measures that relate to charities in this Budget are just empty phrases we’ve heard a hundred times or things that are already happening.
Too many ministers just don’t seem to understand charity or the voluntary sector at all. If they do, it’s in a very limited sense – as either playing a ‘traditional’ role, or as a utilitarian instrument to be used to help break down the welfare state and outsource public services, or as an irritating opponent – a sector that needs to be muzzled because we campaign on issues or criticise government policies.
The government seems obsessed with supporting for-profit business and economic growth above all else. Mending the economy and dealing with public debt are clearly crucial, but ignoring the social sector and the millions of people it serves risks storing up other, very damaging debts for the future.
Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change.