Observations Body politic

Have charities been silenced by government gold?

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39338.667558.59 (Published 20 September 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:592
  1. Nigel Hawkes, health editor, the Times
  1. nigel.hawkes{at}thetimes.co.uk

    Charities received a record £900m from the NHS last year—will this prevent them speaking out against government policy?

    Last week the head of a leading mental health charity made an appeal for funds. Nothing unusual there you might surmise. It is the business of charities to play the role of Oliver Twist, forever saying they want some more.

    But Andrew McCulloch of the Mental Health Foundation did not direct his appeal at philanthropic individuals, but at the government. These days, when charities fall short in their fundraising it is not because they cannot wheedle any more pennies out of reluctant donors through flag days, second-hand shops, or legacies, but because their government grants and contracts haven't come up to scratch.

    To those raised in the conviction that charities ought to be everything that government isn't, the extent to which the two sectors have become interdependent is remarkable. Hands up those who knew that more than 90% of the income of Mencap or Leonard Cheshire—two high-profile charities—comes from the government. Or two thirds of the income of Dr Barnardo's.

    Even fiercely independent organisations such as the Salvation Army have …

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