Sweet Charity, Bitter Competition
HERE'S another example of the bitter competition between charities and voluntary organisations for resources and public business.
Regular readers of this blog will know about Southall Black Sisters' battle to save the grant from Ealing borough council which enables them to do vital advocacy and advice work, focussing on the particular problems of immigrant and ethnic minority women.
Southall Black Sisters have never turned away any woman who came to them for help. Though they originated mainly from the Asian community they are currently helping Somali women. But they point to their specialist knowledge of religious and cultural backgrounds, as well as language, and readiness to confront issues from arranged marriage and domestic violence to genital mutilation and 'honour killings '. The Tory council thinks a "general" service will do, though it has not come up with extra funds.
The Southall Black Sisters have gained wide respect for their work, well beyond their area and the field of social work, and it not surprising their campaign to continue has won wide support both locally and nationally.
Not from some people in the charity business it would seem. Here's a message recently posted to
supporters on the Save the Southall Black Sisters Facebook group.
Refuge We are extremely disturbed to note that the organisation Refuge has decided to make a bid for the recycled funds that should be awarded to SBS. Refuge is a national domestic violence charity that has considerable resources at its disposal. In 2006/7 for instance, its total annual income was £9.4 million. Refuge has made a bid for the £100,000 to provide a domestic violence service in Ealing. Needless to say, this move undermines our struggle for funding and for our autonomy. By way of a gesture of support, Refuge wrote to Ealing Council requesting it to make reserve funds available for SBS following the bidding process! It is a matter of great disappointment to SBS that a well known, well resourced national organisation like Refuge is colluding in the closure of a vital specialist organisation. Given its annual income, its bid for the £100,000 represents a ‘drop in the ocean’, but the same funds will make all the difference to our work with black and minority women. Its attitude displays a patronising, unprincipled and indifferent approach to our struggles as black and minority women.'
This case raises special issues, but it is also part of a wider pattern. Another contest I heard about the other day apparently involves Shelter and the St.Mungo's Trust, bidding for work concerning the prison service and ex-offenders.
The competition between charities for the public's money has already been highly profitable to the advertising and PR business. Smaller, community-based groups do not have the same resources, nor may they want to divert what funds they have from the purpose for which they were raised.
The competition to take on tasks for government may well make the business-like charity organisations cautious about saying or doing anything that those in power might not like. Southall Black Sisters have earned their reputation by standing up for their cllients against authority whenever it was necessary, whether that of a bullying husband, religious leaders, or the Home Office. Will those after their council money do the same?