An article was released onto the Guardian’s website last week in which Will Horwitz debated, as many have before, the fate of the charity sector in coming years. He argued that within the next decade charities should have achieved their goals and erased the social imperfections that make their causes necessary.
This sparked a bit of a debate here in the LIKECHARITY offices - should charities be aiming to have fulfilled their purpose by 2024?
Michael Gaskin, Strategic Analyst for LIKECHARITY, believes that in ten years time the governments of each country should have taken responsibility for the facilities and services now provided by charitable organisations. Communications Executive, Claire Slevin, disagrees. She argues that charities offer the public far more than a government body ever could.
Should charities be extinct in 10 years time?
Michael Gaskin argues that the government should have stepped up by 2024.
Should charities exist at all? Charitable organisations are often establish because of a governmental failure to speak up for minorities or include them in policy discussion and implementation, or because of a failure by the welfare state to provide adequate services and protections from poverty. Where there is a service, social protection or policy vacuum, charities and advocacy organisations fill that need.
As such, charities are working towards a utopia whereby their services will be no longer needed because the problem has been eradicated or because their policy aims have been achieved. This paradox dictates that ultimately charities are working until they are no longer needed.
This begs a series of really uncomfortable questions: Does this lead to a dependence that actually perpetuates the very problem that they are seeking to eradicate? Does the very existence of charities ensure that the State does not step in? Do they contribute to the problem, ensuring their stated aims can never be achieved?
On the other side of this is - does the Government have an unhealthy interest in ensuring that a charities’ utopia is never reached? A move towards charitable utopia would indicate that the State is taking another step on the road to a fully fledged, universal welfare state via the provision of services and is moving away from its current capitalist incarnation which has failed so many for so long.
Claire Slevin believes that charities are much more than the services they provide.
I cannot imagine a future time in which charities will be obsolete. Yes, phenomenal progress has been made in the developing world, many philanthropists predict poverty will be eradicated within our lifetime. Yet, while poverty prevention and assistance in the developing world is greatly important, it does not represent the charity sector as a whole.
Many charities focus on national issues, providing support, assistance and protection for members of our own communities. Tell me when will there be a time that a charity for victims of domestic abuse will no longer be needed? Even if domestic abuse becomes extremely scarce in future years, where will these scarce number of victims go? Charity organisations cannot, and must not, be disintegrated.
While certain charities do in many ways provide services that in a ‘utopia’, as Michael says, a government should provide, to the people helped by these organisations charity is much, much more than a fulfilment of a basic need. For victims of abuse, injustice or discrimination the charities that help them provide solace, understanding and protection, within the walls of a confined structure that exists solely to help them. Because of this there is a much smaller risk of being ‘lost in the system’.
For parents helped with caring for physically or mentally ill children their charity gives them an empathetic community and a support that far surpasses the technicalities of medical attention. This is more than any state body could be capable of.
Horwitz argues that by 2024, charity organisations should have been able to ‘solve a societal problem’. Charities do not exist to solve the problems of our society. Though they may lobby for change and legally pursue justice, their primary concern is now, and will always be, the victims within our society. Charities, legal structures, even governments are incapable of morally aligning entire generations. While we, Mr Horwitz and Michael can dare to dream, the end of charity will only come with the end of abuse, neglect, injustice and illness, and that is something very much beyond any one person, one organisation or one government’s control.
The charity sector drives good will within our societies. The amount of people that dedicate their lives to, volunteer with or donate to charitable organisations serves as an example of the kindness we are willing to show to strangers within our communities, nations and even foreign countries. I personally would be deeply saddened to see their end.
Read Will Horwitz's piece 'There shouldn't be any charities in 10 years' time' here: