BHT has a duel role: first and foremost to do the work that we do, day in and day out, combating homelessness, creating opportunities, and promoting change, improving lives and changing the communities we work in for the better.
Secondly, it is BHT’s role to highlight the impact that public policy has on the lives of our clients and tenants, and doing so without fear or favour.
A couple of years ago, the then Minister for the Third Sector, Brooks Newmark, said that charity chief executives should avoid becoming involved in politics. He said: “stick to your knitting”. Perhaps he should have done likewise as a few months later he was caught out by a national newspaper sending photographs of himself in a state of undress to a middle aged male reporter posing as a young female research assistant.
There is a fine line to tread between campaigning on public policy that impacts on our tenants and clients, and becoming party political. Merely praising or criticising a particular policy does not make us party political. We have a moral obligation to do so, notwithstanding efforts by successive governments to clip our wings. Politicians love charities at election time. Less so when we criticise their policies.
BHT has campaigned and commented on, publicly and in private, on many issues during 2016, including:
- Extending the Right to Buy to housing associations
- The benefits cap
- The sanctions regime
- Cuts to rents in specialist supported housing
- The high cost of funerals
- The Homelessness Reduction Bill
- The closure of courts
- Cuts to legal aid
- Housing policy in general
- The increase in households, including children, in temporary and emergency accommodation
- Lack of drug rehabilitation services in East Sussex
- Attempts to silence charities through the Lobbying Act
- Poverty and the rise in the use of food banks
- And, incomprehensibly, the awarding of more giant contracts to companies such as G4S!
i see no reason to change our approach in 2017.