There's an interesting report from the BBC Radio 4 called "Changing Charities". You can read the report's transcript here. It was about the debate that has created much controversy amongst charities for many years now: has the increasing levels of funding from Government represented a threat or an opportunity to charities.
"The voluntary sector receives well over Â£10 billion a year in income from the British state â€“ considerably more than comes from individual contributions. The state is now the biggest single source of revenue for the sector. Some charities â€“ and they are likely to be large rather than small onesâ€“ now depend on government contracts for almost all their income."
Alison Wolf the BBC reporter states:
"Charities may be renowned for doing things cheaply and economically - for tapping volunteer help, or paying low wages. But that is not why they exist: they were not created to be some sort of bargain basement for services. Isn't there a risk that government funding will corrode exactly those qualities which make them different, including something which has always been at the heart of British charities: - independence from the state, and the freedom to criticise government policy?"
Stephen Bubb, Chief Exec is optimistic on charities continuing independence:
BUBB: You need to reflect on the fact we have you know a democratically elected government and local authorities. We're discussing with them, we're involved with them in the development of policy. That is how it should be. The question is does that affect our ability to speak out, speak truth to power? Well the evidence so far is that we can. One good example: at Barnardo's where I think just under 60% of their income comes through contracts for some 110,000 children, the Head of Barnardo's has spoken out on a range of issues very strongly and taken a very strong line against government policy - for example on the treatment of migrant children.
WOLF: Suppose you're not Barnardo's, suppose you're not a national name with all the safety that gives you. Do you think smaller charities can really tell it like it is?
BUBB: Well they do. I am upbeat on independence and the reason is that twenty years ago governments treated the sector with a lack of interest and almost contempt. Now you could not develop a policy in any key area without consulting with, asking our charities what their views are.
What do you reckon?