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‘Survivalist’ Charities Need to Step Up on Poverty Challenge


8 May 2014 at 11:37 am
Lina Caneva
It’s been claimed that too much emphasis is placed on the role of charitable giving and not enough on the structural nature of poverty and ways to combat it, in a hard hitting investigation into civil society in the UK.

Lina Caneva | 8 May 2014 at 11:37 am


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‘Survivalist’ Charities Need to Step Up on Poverty Challenge
8 May 2014 at 11:37 am

It’s been claimed that too much emphasis is placed on the role of charitable giving and not enough on the structural nature of poverty and ways to combat it, in a hard hitting investigation into civil society in the UK.

The investigation claims the capacity for civil society to effectively address poverty has been weakened as a result of a lack of a coherent strategy, and calls on charities in ‘survivalist’ mode to step up to the challenge if poverty and inequality in the UK are to be tackled.

The special report published by the New Statesman magazine in partnership with the Webb Memorial Trust explores the role of civil society in reducing poverty and inequality, and questions why the sector has not been as vocal as it could in the face of increasing poverty and inequality throughout the UK.

“Inequality and poverty within the UK are rising. Some 13 million people live in poverty, the majority of whom are in work. Around a third of households lack three of more necessities, such as a healthy diet, adequate heating and a damp-free home,” the report said.

“Yet despite this, the response from organisations that exist to support and defend the interests of disadvantaged communities has been muted.

“Income challenges, the close relationship many charities enjoy with government, and the role of grassroots movements are all explored within this series of articles written by leading voices from within civil society.

The centrepiece of the report is the new research from Paul Bunyan and John Diamond of Edge Hill University, which investigates the role of civil society in bringing about the positive change the UK needs.

It found that the capacity for civil society to effectively address poverty has been weakened as a result of a lack of a coherent strategy. For example, it said too much emphasis is placed on the role of charitable giving and not enough on the structural nature of poverty.

“Civil society should remain at arms-length from electoral party politics. Instead it should focus on developing the power of grassroots organisations to more effectively engage with, and contest, state and market practices which diminish human dignity.

“Civil society needs to become more radical in the approaches and strategies it adopts in tackling poverty and inequality in the UK – particularly in light of the austerity measures and the impact this has had on the most vulnerable in society.”

Barry Knight, adviser to the Webb Memorial Trust, said: “Given the austerity now faced by our public services, there is a new opportunity opening up for an independent voluntary and community sector.”

“At present, much of this sector is in ‘survivalist’ mode, worrying where the next grant or contract is coming from. If it can rise above this, and find the energy of purpose exemplified by organisations such as Citizens UK, then it can perhaps help our society find its way out of the maze of declining incomes and growing inequality.”

Taking action on poverty: Does civil society hold the answer can be downloaded for from the New Statesman website

Approaches to Reducing Poverty and Inequality in the UK by Paul Bunyan and John Diamond can be downloaded from here.


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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