Saturday, 20 April 2024
Saturday, 20 April 2024

New study: MPs ignoring and disengaging with charities

MEMBERS of the UK government are increasingly disengaging with and often ignoring outreach from charities, according to a study. 

The study, conducted prior to leadership change, spoke to some of the UK’s largest charities and found that more than half had seen decreased engagement and responses from ministers over the past 12 months. Other respondents said their engagement was patchy, with some areas notably harder to engage on.

The impact of this reduced engagement means that charities’ essential work supporting those in need in the UK and across the world is being delayed or can’t happen at all, at a time when it has never been more needed. 

Almost half of the UK’s top 25 largest charities took part in the detailed study, including Save the Children, RSPCA, Parkinson’s UK and Macmillan.

Some of the findings reported in the study:

  • Letters to Ministers on key, timely issues are going unacknowledged – not receiving confirmation of receipt, let alone a reply.
  • MPs and government are ‘slow to respond and far less engaged unless it can secure them good news and column inches’, or unless an issue is aligned with increasingly domestic-focused priorities, with a reduced openness to being proactive.
  • Bills seem more likely to be delayed or risk falling entirely, with wider world contexts given as the reason even when unrelated to the matter at hand.
  • Charities receive fewer responses to meeting requests, and those that are confirmed are done at the last minute.

The research was undertaken by strategic creative and campaigns agency Blue State, which works for some of the world’s biggest charities, brands, NGOs and political organisations. The study was launched after hearing anecdotally that many charity clients were struggling in this area. 

Charities engage with the government via letters, petition, meetings and direct action, all of which helps further their work and those they support. As people begin to feel the effect of public service, health care, education and other cuts in Britain – and around the world via reductions in international aid – the work of charities, and their productive engagement with MPs and politicians, has never been more vital.

When there is an effective dynamic between charities and the government, as had been the case until 2020, it makes the government more effective, accountable and transparent and ensures wider and public perspectives are brought into the discussion of how UK aid is spent.

Tom Baker, director of campaigns and organising, Save The Children said:

“We’re finding more and more MPs don’t want to respond or engage with our supporters. This feels like a shift from 2020 when meeting virtually felt ‘new’ so we saw more opportunities to connect.”

David Bowles, head of public affairs, RSPCA, said:

“The UK government appear to be split on animal welfare issues when it comes to responsiveness. Whilst we still get a good response from ministers within DEFRA, we see a lesser response from wider civil servants and the UK government.”

A representative from one of the UK’s largest health charities, who wished to remain anonymous, added:

“Ministerial engagement seems to have decreased – it feels harder to get meetings and we’re finding ministers are less responsive to meeting requests with timelines for meetings becoming increasingly last minute.

“There is a sense that Ministerial engagement is much more aligned to their priorities rather than proactive stakeholder engagement or responding to priorities charities are seeking to put forward.”

Hannah Johnson, executive director, of Blue State, who instigated the survey, added: 

“When we began hearing about reduced government engagement from not just our clients but across the charity sector, we knew this was something we needed to look into further. 

“At a time when, due to cuts in government spending across the board, more and more people are relying on these organisations to support them – and when international aid has been cut too – the fact that we’ve found further evidence to support this finding is hugely disappointing. Our study, which had responses from some of the largest nonprofits in the nation, supports what we’re already hearing from many across the sector.

“Even now, as we head into a race for the next prime minister, the issues being raised (taxes, fuel duty, cost of living crisis) are primarily domestic which creates challenges for international organisations and for the UK’s role as a global leader.

“Whilst there was an understanding that governmental priorities took on more of a domestic lens during the pandemic, it’s now been over 100 days since we had any covid-related restrictions and it’s time to once again get ahead of the issues and challenges that we’re facing as a society both in the UK and internationally. 

“Raising awareness that the government is currently less responsive to the needs of the sector is key – we need them to step up. At this time of huge national and international pressure, it is crucial for there to be a regular dialogue between the public, government officials and organisations seeking to represent their best interests and solve issues that threaten livelihoods. Switching off or not replying is simply not good enough.”


Join our FREE mailing list and receive our Weekly Digest bulletin and other updates direct to your inbox.

Related News

Skip to content