This is my letter published in the Guardian of 27 April 2017, in response to clumnist John Harris’ argument that charity appeals “normalise” unacceptable gaps in state services:
“John Harris is right that charity is no substitute for state services, and charitable giving can sometimes seem to “normalise” inadequate state provision (We’re still giving, but our vulnerable should not be so dependent on charity, 21 April). But there are two important points that he misses.
Firstly, campaigning for better services, and showing how they might be improved, is precisely part of what many charities do, with the approval of the Charity Commission. When Harris gets out his credit card for many charities, he is supporting such advocacy, so that the vulnerable are given visibility and voice. In the fields he mentions like international development, education, health and medicine and disability, many leading charities champion, rather than undermine, a rights-based approach.
Secondly, as Beveridge recognised, state services alone will never be sufficient to meet all needs justly, to innovate as society changes, or give sufficient opportunities for participation and influence. Under any scenario of public spending, there will be ample space for a vibrant, assertive voluntary sector. Keep giving, John.