Further to touching on issues of ethics and the voluntary sector in the post, Lloyds and UK Youth : Isn’t a Debt for Life Programme more honest? , Bernard Davies asks whether voluntary sector youth organisations have in place ethical frameworks for their dealings with would-be funders/partners?
Given all the requirements in our field for ‘risk assessments’, why is it that so many voluntary organisations with national profiles and responsibilities don’t seem to make public – or even perhaps have – explicit ethical risk assessment frameworks backed up by relevant policy guidelines? Also, when these organisations tie themselves in with companies like Lloyds, what happens to their claims to being independent bodies able to tell it how it is on behalf of young people? What if, for example, UK Youth discovered that there were some very angry and demoralised members of affiliated clubs amongst the latest 3000 Lloyds redundancies? How free would it feel to openly support those young people in going public with their criticisms of Lloyds?
Meanwhile the Third Sector reports:
More than 100 voluntary sector organisations made use of jobseekers who were told to carry out work placements without being paid or face losing their benefits, government documents show.
The names of more than 500 organisations that provided the controversial placements between July 2011 and January 2012 have been released by the the Department for Work and Pensions.
The department, which had sought to keep the information under wraps, has been told by the Court of Appeal to publish the information after a lengthy legal battle.
The list names dozens of well-known charities, including the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, the National Trust, Save the Children, Oxfam and the RSPCA, plus scores of smaller voluntary sector organisations including hospices and animal charities.
This revelation has prompted Andy Benson from Keep Volunteering Voluntary, of which we are signed up supporters, to comment:
A roll call of shame, made worse by the Government’s tawdry efforts to keep the list secret to protect the guilty. Forced work backed by the draconian threat of ‘benefits sanctions’ (big brother-speak for loss of entire income and the creation of destitution) is a travesty of the whole concept of rights and entitlements.
Last month a report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights condemned the current operation of the UK’s benefit sanctions regime, in particular “The Committee is particularly concerned about the adverse impact of these changes and cuts on the enjoyment of the rights to social security and to an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children… and the absence of due process and access to justice for those affected by the use of sanctions.“
People affected by sanctions (more than one million every year) and those of us who have been fighting them have known all this for a long time. Why then are charities and voluntary groups so apparently unconcerned about exactly the people likely to be their beneficiaries and so willing to conspire with a disgraceful, punitive policy in order to get their hands on some ‘compulsory volunteers’, an oxymoron if ever there was one.
Let’s be clear we are in no way accusing UK Youth or any leading voluntary youth organisations of being involved in the use of workfare. We are simply using this news to pursue the question of how far we as a sector have in place ethical guidelines to inform our external relations with the powerful, with those, who hold the purse strings?