Joint letter from civil society organisations calling on government to end anti-advocacy clauses

Published in The Times on Wednesday 17th October 2018, in response to The Times' investigation into the use of gagging clauses in contracts issued by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Dear editor,

Your report on Department of Work and Pensions contracts with organisations helping people back to work highlights once again how the use of anti-advocacy clauses in government contracts has the potential to prevent civil society speaking out on behalf of vulnerable people (Friday 12 October). This is not new to civil society leaders, who have challenged the use of anti-advocacy clauses since the new government grant standards were introduced in 2016.

Civil society does not exist solely to provide services, although that can be an important part of its work. It is also there to give voice to the concerns of those people and communities who often go unheard. It addresses the root causes of issues, bringing frontline experience and knowledge to help shape policy and effect change.
History has shown how important this is. Campaigning and advocacy has changed minds and improved lives, from the introduction of the smoking ban and the plastic bag tax, through to patient panels in the health sector. Universal Credit is an example of a policy which is affecting the lives of thousands of people, and it’s more important than ever that charities are free to represent a range of voices.

We are calling on the government to end the use of anti-advocacy clauses across all government departments, and strengthen the fundamental role civil society plays in our democracy. Civil society, and the people it serves, must be able to tackle the causes of problems, not just address the symptoms. We must be able to speak truth to power.

Yours sincerely,

Vicky Browning, Chief Executive, ACEVO

Debra Allcock-Tyler, Chief Executive, Directory of Social Change

Craig Bennet, Chief Executive, Friends of the Earth

Kathy Evans, Chief Executive, Children England

Claire Godfrey, Head of Policy and Campaigns, Bond

Julia Kaufmann, Chair, Small Charities Coalition

Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, Chief Executive, Christian Aid

Polly Neate, Chief Executive, Shelter

Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain

Paul Streets, Chief Executive, Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales

Sue Tibballs, Chief Executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation