29 January 2013
Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector in the UK, gagging clauses in contracts and attacks by government ministers on those who speak out in support of the vulnerable are making some charities fearful.
The result is growing concern about the extent of freedom of expression in the third (voluntary) sector and a belief that the government has become increasingly contemptuous of those provider organisations which also speak out against injustice and inequality.
The latest report is the second one from the group. In the earlier report the chair of the panel Sir Roger Singleton claimed that charities faced "real and present risks to independence of purpose, voice and action" with the risk that the voice of the vulnerable and marginalised being silenced, democracy being eroded and society impoverished.
There is also fear that government, stung by criticism from some groups, wishes to restrict the capacity of voluntary organisations to engage in advocacy related to their charitable aims.
Tabloid newspapers, who have maintained remorseless attacks on asylum seekers, benefit claimants and other vulnerable groups are also contributing to these fears.
Similar concerns about government's silencing of dissent have been raised previously in Australia.