Quakers have joined with civil society leaders in a letter to the Times calling for an end to the use of anti-advocacy clauses in government contracts. Anti-advocacy clauses prevent charities who receive government funding or who run government services from raising their concerns and campaigning on issues of government policy that affect vulnerable people. It is one of a number of government policies that 'gag' organisations from speaking out on social issues.
The letter responds to a front-page story in the newspaper, claiming that charities working with universal credit recipients have been banned from criticising its implementation.
The letter in full
Your report on Department for Work and Pensions contracts 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. This is not new: civil society leaders have been challenging the use of anti-advocacy clauses for some years.
"Civil society does not exist solely to provide services. It is also there to give voice to the concerns of those people who often go unheard. It addresses the root causes of issues, bringing frontline experience and knowledge to help to shape policy and bring about change.
"History has shown how important this is. Advocacy has changed minds and improved lives, from the introduction of the smoking ban to the plastic bag tax. Universal credit affects the lives of thousands, and it is more important than ever that charities are free to represent a range of voices.
"We urge the government to end the use of anti-advocacy clauses across all government departments and strengthen the fundamental role that 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."
Debra Allcock Tyler, chief executive, Directory of Social Change
Vicky Browning, CEO, Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations;
Craig Bennett, CEO, Friends of the Earth
Kathy Evans, CEO, 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 & Wales
Sue Tibballs, chief executive, Sheila McKechnie Foundation
Read Charities, politics, and independence by Bernadette Meaden
* Quakers are known formally as the Religious Society of Friends. Around 23,000 people attend 478 Quaker meetings in Britain. Their commitment to equality, justice, peace, simplicity and truth challenges them to seek positive social and legislative change.