There’s no doubt that charities are hugely important to the UK and to us, as citizens. There are more than 160,000 charities in England and Wales which, according to John Low, Chief Executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, make up “the backbone of Britain”. Every day, they improve the lives of millions of people. Charitable giving is an aspect of our society that makes the UK among the most generous countries in the world.
A recent report found that every day, UK charities spend £136.4 million – equivalent to £1,578 per second – supporting our diverse communities. In fact, four in five people benefited from a charitable service in the last twelve months. Because of their reach and the amount of money involved, how charities are run and the way in which they are regulated are never far from the spotlight.
Recently, Oxfam became involved in a scandal about the sexual conduct of some of its staff working in Haiti following the earthquake in 2010. It is, of course, right that there should be an investigation into any misconduct, breaches of the charity’s code of conduct, or knock-on effects of undermining the public’s trust in charitable giving.
Last week, the UK’s International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, formally responded to the investigation, by saying: “I made three demands: that they [Oxfam] make clear how they will handle any forthcoming allegations around safeguarding – historic or live; that they report staff members involved in this incident to their respective national governments; and that they fully cooperate with the Haitian authorities, including handing over all evidence they hold. Oxfam has now confirmed that they have complied with all of these points.
“Following our discussions, Oxfam has agreed to withdraw from bidding for any new UK Government funding until DFID is satisfied that they can meet the high standards we expect of our partners … Our primary guiding principle in this will be the welfare of the beneficiaries of UK aid.”
Given the importance of charitable work in the UK and abroad and the fact that this work relies on trust and confidence, we must continue to shine a light on the conduct of all registered UK charities, whether there is any truth in allegations or not.
According to figures received by the UK’s Charity Commission, British Muslims are estimated to have given approximately £100 million to charity during Ramadan in 2016. This makes British Muslims the most generous charity-givers in the UK. It is vital that we continue to give to support the incredible work achieved by charities in the UK.
The UK’s Charity Commission has advice on how to ensure your donations go to legitimate charities, such as finding out more information about a charity before giving, and checking it is registered with them. It also urges donors to double check people’s ID if they’re asking for money in person, checking their collection tin is sealed and undamaged, or simply asking more questions about their work. A genuine fundraiser should be happy to answer questions and explain more about the work of the charity.
With confidence, we can continue to give safely and ensure that the lives of millions of people of all faiths and none in our diverse and multicultural country are improved.