Thursday, 16 April 2015
It’s been striking, in recent years, how often religious groups have led the response to the hardships of austerity. Even in the days of declining church attendance in Britain, groups like the Trussell Trust have galvanised society and led the third sector’s efforts to prevent and alleviate the worst effects of financial crisis.
So how appropriate it is to see my old friend the Rt Rev Dr Richard Chartres, the Bishop of London, writing in today’s Times about the new campaign he launches this evening with Tearfund.
Tearfund is a Christian charity - in their words, “Christians passionate about ending poverty”. The Bishop writes:
“Many of today’s global challenges have been brewing for many years and we should have seen them coming. Yet we have made the mistake of concentrating only on short-term issues.
We can reasonably predict that the floods, droughts and storms already ravaging countries and wiping out families will only get worse. For many of the world’s poorest people, those threats are already a daily reality.
We must respond to natural resource constraints by living within our fair share of the world’s environmental limits. We must meet poverty with radical generosity and use our power as citizens and consumers to demand that all people are treated with dignity, wherever they are.
Often, only crises produce real change. But actions taken at moments of crisis depend on the ideas to hand.
We need bigger ideas: a passionate concern for the common good and a fuller life for everyone, whoever they are and wherever they live — both now and in future generations.”
Tonight the Bishop will launch a campaign for a ‘restorative economy’ - ‘based on a movement of people willing to change their own lives so that everyone can share in an equitable global prosperity’.
The campaign is based around the work of ‘ordinary heroes’, people who change their own lives in ‘small but significant’ ways like flying less or consuming fairtrade products. It draws on the Biblical concept of Jubilee - to work to build a rhythm of productivity, rest and community to counter debt and exploitation.
‘Ordinary heroes’ are encouraged to use their own power and to set an example to the community around them. Their actions will combine lay the building blocks for a wider movement, that changes how we think about wealth, prosperity and consumption.
In times of deep pessimism about the role of religion in society, and when we’re getting almost immune to concerns about religious extremism and its links to terrorists, this sort of campaign is worth everyone’s support. Do read more about it, and join up, here!
Wednesday, 8 April 2015
Did you spot the irony of that full page advert from business leaders supporting the Tory party to win the election?
I wonder whether the Lobbying Act prohibitions against 'non-party organisations and individuals' trying to influence public votes during the election period shouldn't also apply to those 100 company CEOs who released their overtly partisan letter in the Telegraph?
I suspect many of them have spent far more than the registration threshold on supporting party election campaigning too? I wonder how much tobacco companies are spending in fighting against plain packaging and who they are supporting? What would have happened if charity leaders had done the same? This is yet another instance of the outrage of the Lobbying act and how it doesn't affect Lobbying but does gag charities. It has had an insidious effect on charity campaigning. There is no doubt that the act has quietening our voice. This Act has to be repealed and ACEVO will continue its campaign for this after the election.
Hopefully you all had a great Easter. I was down in Kent with family celebrating the 50th anniversary of the consecration of St Matthews, Wigmore. I was one of the first to be confirmed in the new church so a double celebration for me. Some photos from the event. Myself with my mother and father and two sisters Lucy and Sara.
The Bishop of Rochester gave the sermon and I had a long chat with him afterwards about ACEVO and our work, which he had heard a lot about. He was interested in the whole issue of rehabilitation because he holds the brief for prisons amongst the Bishops. We will follow up that conversation.
|The Bishop of Rochester|
Thursday, 2 April 2015
Paula had put together a great line up to demonstrate the way they want to work with families and people with learning disabilities. So we heard directly from them about their experiences of institutional care and how they thrive in the community, supported by a great new organisation that is people centered at the heart of its values. What I particularly like is that this is a Community Interest Company and the aim is to have the shares vested in the people they support.
In my speech I talked about the conclusions of my Winterbourne Report but in particular my top 6 tips for success, beginning with inspirational leadership - and Paula is providing that. A great mix of charm and determination backed by a clear vision of where she wants to take the organisation.
The others were about:
- Creating changed cultures- not NHS but third sector (innovative, flexible, adaptable, professional but passionate)
- Taking risks for future growth; not hidebound by orders from above
- Grabbing opportunities in the new style NHS where community gets more resources
- Putting people first, not the organisation
Always good to get out of the office to see what members are up to! Against a gloomy background of attacks on our core as charities and potential doom in funding it's a fillip to come and see what a difference we can make.
So let me wish you all a Happy Easter. I'm off to Charlbury for Maundy Thursday Mass and then back down to Wigmore in Kent, where I was born. It's the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the new Parish Church which I remember vividly as it was also the occasion of my Confirmation and First Communion. I was 12 at the time and mother had made me a new suit. I looked very smart and lovely. As you would expect.....
Wednesday, 1 April 2015
|Sue Killen and the ancient gateway of the St John's Priory.|
One of the great joys of my job is visiting charities - old and new. Vibrant new social enterprises (I'm on my way to the launch of " Future Directions" in Oldham today), household names and community groups and ancient institutions that have been with us for centuries.
St John's Ambulance is a much loved national institution. All football fans know of their vital work in enabling matches to be played. Less well known is the work they do in the NHS in areas where they provide help in assisting 999 calls. A growing role - they have an increasing role in commissioned delivery for the NHS as well as their core role in first aid.
And all institutions need change. Sue Killen, their CEO has been there 7 years overseeing a strong change management programme. Not always easy she says but vital to modernise a service that is as relevant to the 21st century as it was in the 19th. She has had to turn around loss making activities and secure break even. And she is a striking example of someone who left one of the most senior posts in the civil service to join the third sector. A move she does not regret!
The work they do is a reminder of the power of charities to harness the skills of paid professional staff with the drive and commitment of trained volunteers. But volunteers need to be trained to the highest standards and that is not cost free, nor does it come without significant management and supervision. So many governments have had volunteering initiatives that focus on getting more people to volunteer but forget this is not cost free for charities. And let's face it, these days there are many issues around effective safeguarding and other controls because as with many members they face not simply regulation from the Charity Commission but from the CQC amongst others.
You can go and visit as there is a museum at the gateway that contains some fascinating artifacts and documents showcasing the fascinating history of St John's Priory and the Ambulance service.
Yet another example of the power of the third sector to do good. Maybe we might hear a bit about this in the coming election campaign. We have heard zilch so far.
Monday, 30 March 2015
Hurrah for charity shops! I was in the Helen and Douglas House Hospice shop in Chipping Norton on Saturday - the top performing of the 30 plus shops the Hospice runs! Well supplied by the "Chipping Norton set" its a rather good place to secure some up market goods at reasonable prices. A Paul Smith suit in the window didn't fit, but a bargain at £150. Get there quick! Of course, I'm not sure I'd actually want to know if the splendid tweed jacket I bought was from Jeremy Clarkson but perhaps it was a Cameron cast off? They are both big supporters of the Hospice.
As indeed am I; I was persuaded by Angela, the Manager of the Chipping shop, to put up for a trustee position and I was appointed a trustee about 6 months ago. I thought it would do me good to see governance from the other side, so to speak. I've now been at 3 trustee meetings and found it all very revealing. There are challenges yes, but also opportunities for growth. This was the very first children's hospice in the world, founded by the All Saints Sisters of the Poor. In fact an interesting link for me because this Anglican order of nuns was set up in the Church I attend in London; All Saints, Margaret St, Buttterfield's masterpiece. Once a very great order of nuns, it has declined, as have most of the religious houses. They moved from Margaret St some time back and the mother house is now in Oxford. The Helen House Hospice was established in the grounds of the convent, and later they built a Hospice (Douglas House) for younger adults when they found that the sick children they were caring for were living longer .
A number of us met the founder, Sister Frances last week to hear her account of the establishment. What I thought interesting was the opposition from the medical establishment of the time to the set up of the hospice. The view of the consultants and management was that the care of dying children was the NHS responsibility and they should be in charge. What they missed was patient and family choice. It's sad that so often doctors don't always understand that care is sometimes so much better at home or in a hospice. We have now thankfully moved on considerably and there are few now who don't understand the power and relevance of the hospice movement.
There are however interesting parallels with the debate on A+E and the work that the Red Cross, RVS and Age UK have been doing in supporting frail elderly in casualty. At our recent Hustings, the Greens and UKIP said we don't want volunteers in hospitals doing this work- it should be done by the NHS. Of course I don't blame them for saying this; it was based on ignorance of what the sector does (fortunately Wilson and Nandy are very supportive). There is no doubt we will see a greater partnership between sector and state develop over the years to come. Both main Parties are making strong offerings on the NHS. Cameron was good on the role of charities in his TV "debate" appearance and Burnham has explicitly made a clear offer for our sector. If we are to have a 7 day a week health service (and we certainly need one!) then the role of the third sector must expand. Our unique offer of paid staff and professional volunteers is just what is needed.
But back to the Hospice, the world of this movement is changing. We have some interesting developments in providing high quality care at home which helps families to manage better and respite care is playing a bigger role. But still, far too many people die in a hospital bed when they want to die at home or in the loving environment of a hospice; where your family can stay with you, you can bring your dog and have more influence over the care and environment you are in.
And finally, for ACEVO members we are doing a survey today to inform the work of the Low Commission on better regulation. We want views particularly on the Charity Commission, who have taken some very controversial decisions of late, which has caused much concern in the sector; not just around Muslim charities. So if you are a member do respond to the survey!!
So now we look forward to Easter. I was at Palm Sunday 8am Mass this morning (somewhat early given the clocks going forward). Our Parish is soon to acquire a new Vicar; a woman who once lived in Charlbury as it happens. She takes over the living in June.
Friday, 27 March 2015
Two weeks ago I was in Pakistan, a guest of the Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) and yesterday I joined colleagues at a press conference to report on that visit. I went with 2 ACEVO members; Jehangir Malik, the CEO of Islamic Relief and Dr. Othman Moqbel, CEO of Human Appeal who were representing all the Ceos of the MCF.
The objectives of this visit were:
1. To show solidarity with the MCF at a time when they face unprecedented challenges to their work and demonstrate a leadership role for ACEVO in standing up for members working to build community leadership in the Muslim community in the UK.
2. To see for ourselves how the MCF charities work on the ground in relief and development in Pakistan.
3. To publicise the visit in terms of lessons learnt and actions for Government, Charity Commission, the banks and other actors.
We were there for 8 days. An intensive but highly rewarding visit which combined a somewhat punishing round of visits to projects and official events and discussions. It certainly exceeded my own expectations. I feel I know much better the challenges our colleagues face, the importance of their work and the need for us to step up our support and our demands that Government builds community leadership. I also had a good chance to learn more about the powerful teachings of Islam, indeed it was the first time I attended Jummah or Friday Prayers.
We visited a number of schools, a health project, a project with orphans, a community leadership project as well as intensive discussions with key MCF charities (Muslim Hands, Islamic Relief, Islamic Help, Muslim Aid and Human Appeal in particular).
We also had a number of key discussions with Government. We met with the President of Pakistan and President of Pakistani Kashmir. The later meeting was particularly productive, and is important in the UK context because the vast majority of the British Pakistani community come from Kashmir (indeed a particular part, Mirpur from where Jehangir's family hail). The Minister for Social Welfare in that Government is keen to pursue discussions and wants to host a conference to follow up.
We also had a meeting with the Minister of Religious Affairs in the central government; there are tensions with minority's like the Christian church (indeed a week after we visited Lahore a bomb went off killing 11 people near a Church I visited), and talked to the Anglican Vicar of Holy Trinity, Murree who emphasised how difficult his job is in tackling extremism and anti Christian feelings.
The meeting with the President was perhaps more ceremonial than productive but I did have the opportunity to raise with him the concerns of civil society about a proposed Government Bill which will introduce more regulation on the work of charities there. The meeting was reported on the main news that evening. Civil society faces challenges in that country with both Government and military suspicious of soft power and community empowerment.
Whilst there I presided at a ceremony where a memorandum of understanding between Kashmir and the charity Human Appeal was signed. They are to train all the teachers in state schools in Kashmir, as the level of skill in state schools is abysmal. Unlike in charity supported schools. A rather dramatic example of the strength of the charity sector. I also planted a tree at the office of Human Appeal, spoke to the press (which was reported in Pakistani papers that are printed in the UK), met the Rector of Lahore University and visited an area just 40 mks from where Osama Bin Laden was found and killed. This emphasised just how difficult the humanitarian task is in a country where terrorism present an ever present threat and where aid workers have been killed.
We attended an event for International Women's Day and unusually at one of the meetings we had the introductory reading from the Koran given by a woman. This would be most unusual anywhere in the UK I was told. There was tight security around all hotels and key buildings which emphasised the background dangers faced by the population and the complexity of delivering humanitarian aid in conflict zones.
The visit ended with a press conference and a conference for all non profit workers and supporters where we talked about the conclusions of our visit. I also met with a range of the Country leads for INGOs like Water Aid and VSO.
On a personal level I much enjoyed the visit, not simply because of the experience of meeting and visiting some superb examples of the work charities do, but also because of the privilege of seeing the country and learning more about Islam. This will enable me to speak with more authority about the challenges our colleagues face and reinforce my determination to show solidarity, support them in their job and speak out on their behalf when they feel unable to do so.
I have written to the Leaders of the 3 political parties with my conclusions on the visit and the need for us to tackle terrorism by legislation and security but also by developing community .
You can read this letter via the link below:
I have also been in touch with the Charity Commission and at her request will be meeting the CEO so that I can discuss the conclusions from my visit, the problem of the perceptions of the Regulator in the Muslim community and the need for proportionate and sensitive regulation for charities delivering humanitarian aid in conflict situations (the recent Lords/Commons Bill report emphasised how important this is).
As I said at the Press Conference ,
"We cannot have an internationally cooperative future without caring about the work of civil society – charities and campaign groups – on the ground around the world. The mission I led to Pakistan was path-breaking and I hope it will be the first of many.
Britain needs to fight terrorism with both hands – not with one hand tied behind our back. We need high level strategic security measures but also better understanding of the conditions on the ground that breed or alleviate the threat of extremism. There are serious flaws in our current approach.
This depends upon sensible, credible, proportionate regulation and a common approach to issues like financial management and banking. I want to see action from all the major political parties, for them to meet with me and a delegation of international charities to discuss these issues, and to agree an agenda for the new government as a commitment to the fight against terrorism.
I have witnessed first hand the difficulties faced by organisations in Pakistan fighting the same battle that we are: for security, for a better way of life and for a better future for our children.”
Key to tackling terrorism is a strong security response backed by a major initiative to bolster community leadership in our muslim communities. The harsh rhetoric of many government pronouncements risk alienating those communities we need to combat extremism and radicalisation. Lecturing Muslim communities that regard themselves as British on British values is at best patronising and at worst insulting. Supporting British Muslim charities on their work in building social cohesion and ensuring a regulatory and banking framework that helps not hinders that work is essential. That is a task Government must support and I look forward to positive replies to my Letter to Party Leaders.
Let me leave you with some of the images from our memorable delegation.
|At a school run by Muslim Hands|
|Meeting pupils. Standards of education in charity schools are significantly higher than in state schools.|
|Agreement with Government of Kashmir and Human Appeal to train state school teachers.|
|A lad who had heart problems and was supported through operations by Islamic Relief.|
|The Minister of Religious Affairs in the Federal Government.|
|With the President of Pakistani Kashmir in his office. A picture of my old college friend Benazir proudly displayed.|
|In the mountains of Kashmir, on way to see a Human Appeal school in the mountains of Muree. Young women coming from college.|
|The school in Muree. With the Principal in this Human Appeal supported school.|
|A photo from the glorious Mogul Mosque in Lahore.|
|Othman, myself and Jehangir in Islamabad|
Thursday, 26 March 2015
Last night I went to the Muslim News Awards in Grosvenor Square; a grand occasion that brings together many of the leaders of our country's Muslim community. A time of celebration but also of reflection as many in that community feel they must battle prejudice and intolerance. Many good ACEVO members there and ACEVO has been proud to show solidarity with them as they battle to provide the services and community leadership we all need.
I have recently returned from Pakistan with members of the Muslim Charity Forum, where I have seen for myself the work they do and discussed the challenges they face. Later this afternoon I will join colleagues in a Press Conference at The Initiatives Change Centre to discuss our findings and an initiative ACEVO has taken. More to follow tomorrow morning!
There was an interesting echo of what I will be arguing in the Sermon of the Bishop of Leicester at the reburial of Richard 111 (a cousin many times removed) this morning. He talked of the "we" society not the "me" society and the importance of avoiding tribalism. Leicester is a strong and multi-cultural city where Muslims, Hindus and Christians live and work together, supportong the many vibrant charities in that city. That is why working to build community leadership is so important and why ACEVO will continue to work with the leaders of the Muslim Charity Forum.