2. Charities Only Target Symptoms, Not the Causes

Seven Arguments Against Charity
2. Charities Only Target Symptoms, Not the Causes

Most people would say that the work of charities is valuable; in fact, some of us would go so far as to say the work of charities is essential for the wellbeing of society.  But, against a backdrop of negative news stories, recent years have seen a perceptible shift and hardening in the relationship the public has with charities. In this second of a themed series of posts,  addressing some of the more common complaints against charity, The Boiling Frog considers whether charities simply target the symptoms rather than the cause.

The accusation is that charities help disadvantaged people with their problems, but do little to deal with the causes of that problem. Moreover, they allow the state to escape some of its responsibilities.

We can look at the example of food banks to examine whether this argument against charities stacks up.

There is a nationwide network of charities providing emergency food and support to people locked in poverty. Yes, these food banks are serving an immediate need. And we would have to agree that charitable deeds alone do not solve the underlying problems.

Indeed good deeds may even distract from finding the long-term best solution – which, in the case of tackling poverty, might involve a complex and radical rethink of the way our society organises its economics. How otherwise can we provide new hope and opportunity to those who continue to be disadvantaged?

But charities serving hungry families are not ignoring the causes behind poverty; it’s what they think about every day. Food banks are simply the part of their work which is most visible to the public eye. We shouldn’t overlook the excellent campaigning work of these same charities which have used their food banks to raise public awareness to the plight of modern poverty. Some, for example, have been at the forefront of a fight to end the five-week delay for a first Universal Credit payment.

Let’s be honest, social reform takes years. Arguing over who is responsible for people going hungry in our country is not going to help those who can’t put a meal on the table for their loved ones today. Modern poverty is a complex issue and whilst we wait – probably for a very long time – for our politicians to figure out how to fix our increasingly fragmented society, we can be thankful that there are charities around doing their very best to hold the broken pieces together.

About the Writer– Jenny Hopkins is founder and content curator of The Boiling Frog; she is also a voluntary sector adviser and strategy specialist for Penleaf Limited, helping charities respond to the challenges of a changing world.

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