Something the Chancellor Forgot?

Unlike many in Britain today, I have no strong feelings about the Budget. That doesn’t mean I am indifferent — far from it — but when I look at the situation in Greece or Portugal, or even nearer home in Ireland, I think we are comparatively lucky. However, taking both the Budget and recent decisions to change the nature of the NHS and other familiar elements of our welfare system into account, I can’t help noting that there is one glaring anomaly.

There was nothing I could see in yesterday’s budget to help or encourage the voluntary sector. No matter how successful business in Britain may be, no matter how much surplus wealth may (eventually) be created, the voluntary sector (charity to you and me), can never plug all the gaps in our state welfare system. Indeed, major donors will not be getting the tax relief they have in the past for substantial donations to charity unless they have super-sized incomes (if you give £2M to charity, you now need to be earning £8M, or have I done my sums wrong?). There may be a vague hope that the strong impulse towards charitable giving among Jews and Christians, for example, will help make up for that lack, but with the constant nibbling away at organized religion and the demonstrable falling away in giving across all sectors of society, one may question that.

As one who is very conscious of the needs of some of the most forgotten people in society, the elderly blind and visually impaired among them, I suppose I am entitled to a gloomy view. It won’t stop us doing all we can, but there comes a point where we can do no more. Many charities this morning are probably wondering which services they will need to cut during the coming year. Maybe our Lenten alsmgiving needs to be a whole-year programme? What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Something the Chancellor Forgot?”

  1. At least our time is our own and not subject to fiscal policies.
    In the language of the church, does the concept of almsgiving have to mean money?
    For some of us our time is our greatest asset and using it in both formal and informal voluntary work is our almsgiving.

  2. Much charitable work is duplication. While I don’t doubt their good intentions, it need to be much more cooperative, even mergers to focus on single issues, multi-issues seem to confuse and people tend to prefer something they can identify with.

    For example in the Armed Forces charitable sector there are numerous charities in competition for funds. The ones that focus on a single issue “Combat Stress” for instance or “Help for Heroes” are successful because the are both new, modern in outlook and use the media and events to excellent purpose.

    The traditional charities have now begun to cooperate with joint initiatives between the Royal British Legion/The Army Benevolent Fund/Help for Heroes for instance in setting up a number of Rehabilitation Centres for injured service people around the country. More needs to be done, for example, each Army Regiment has its own Charitable Association, with older ones from Antecedent Regiments working alongside them. This needs streamlining to focus on say Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery and Arms and Services. The issue is that people identify with their Regiment or Cap Badge, and will only donate to them. Not sure how it can be overcome, but if it isn’t, many of the charities will be overwhelmed by the demands on a single Regimental Charity.

    The best Service Charity is SSAFA, which serves all three services, produces reports for other charities to target their charitable support. This seems to me to to be the way forward for many other ‘sector’ charities.

    In the end, people have finite resources to give. And if we don’t get it right, money goes to the wrong place and is not distributed in accordance with the Charitable aims and in the Public Interest. Lots of charities are sitting on massive reserves and are inactive in their sphere. The Charity Commission is trying to sort this out, but it will take time to work through the system.

  3. I have , since working, always seen almsgiving as an entire lifetime. Lent or Careme is more personal to me.
    I do wish the English cared as much for each other as they do for animals.
    My Irish Auntie tells me that in Eire if you want to meet people you need a pram ,in England you need a dog !
    The rspca are the wealthiest charity in England.
    I do nor agree, however, that we can tell people who to donate to but ,we can, by example show them the charities works.

  4. p.s.
    as children , that is before working, we had our mission boxes which we carefully shared our pocket money.
    Try telling children today to do the same !

    • Regarding children giving of their time and money, I think it is a matter of example. I can remember being carefully taught that money was a matter of stewardship—not MY money for MY purposes. Mission boxes, service projects like Operation Christmas Child, and everyday things like helping sick neighbors with outdoor chores were intentionally a part of my upbringing. I would not have come to such things naturally, and I thank my parents (who were most certainly imperfect) and mentors for demonstrating them in their own lives and intentionally passing them onto me. Children and young people today are often extremely selfish, but at least here in the US they have been raised from day one to look only at themselves and their desires. Why are we now shocked that they do so?

  5. Whilst it is an anomalous situation – because the Government rides heavily on the work of charitable institutions and the voluntary sector for the welfare of the kind of society it pays lip service to – I believe that we should not allow the present situation to compromise our giving, but rather step it up if we possibly can.

    We give as to the Lord and let him do the rest. Time, talents, tithes and prayers, the latter being supremely important for the former to take best effect.

    How the nation’s books balance is a reflection of our improverished values as a whole, but, fortunately, God’s economy is not ours.

    We are appealing to a God who can feed five thousand people on five loaves and two small fishes. He is the same God today as he was in biblical times. He can enable the laws of his own Creation which humanity is blind to, and deprived of, when it loses faith and trusts in its own arm.

  6. I agree with the sentiment that our time can be more precious to give than our money. With a pressured job that demands that I travel, I no longer volunteer as I did when still a student.

    That said, I also think volunteering our time can be a very selfish way to give. By its very nature we can pick and choose what tasks we are prepared to undertake. We can drop out or resign our responsibilities at any time. Similarly, we are inherently assuming that our time is worth contributing, that we have “something” that is beneficial for others to recieve for free. We get to congratualate ourselves for our achievements, to wallow in the thanks and so on.

    In turn, giving money to charities is often a quiet way of giving, but it is quick and easy. I also doubt many (myself included) give more than they might spend on cups of coffee in a month.

    This is starting to seem like a very negative comment, for which I apologise. While contemplating whether our government does enough to support the voluntary section, I think its important to ponders whether we do enough to support the voluntary section ourselves, and whether what we give is given in the right way. I do not deny the value of giving, just wished to give a few examples that might encourage these thoughts.

  7. Thank you for your interesting comments. I’m sorry I was offline yesterday so didn’t have an opportunity to respond to each one. I notice that on Twitter there were some quite ‘irritated’ responses which suggested, to me at least, that some people were still reacting to the implications of the budget for themselves rather than thinking about the really vulnerable people SOME of the voluntary sector serves. I was quite surprised to find some complaining that the voluntary sector takes huge amounts of tax payers money — as though those involved in working for the sector are not themselves tax payers..

    I am especially grateful to Mikeala who has spelled out some of the personal dimensions of our charitable giving.

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