Charities cannot rely on handouts, says aid minister Lynne Featherstone

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The Aid minister has called for charities to stop depending on government “handouts” and become more self-sufficient.

The minister for International Development, Lynne Featherstone said that charities needed to be imaginative in seeking new sources of funding because austerity was here for the foreseeable future.

“Charity is amazing but I think it also got too used to Government being the only funder,” said Ms Featherstone, in an interview with The Independent. Organisations needed to be more “active” and look for “other funders to step in perhaps where Government couldn’t do everything”, she said.

Ms Featherstone gave the example of a project in Islington, north London: “I met a woman’s support group who were active. When they looked at the horizon and realised there was no money in a sense, they started asking local businesses to support them, other funders to step in, perhaps.”

The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green added: “The way out of our country’s economic mess that we were left with is growth. It’s to keep austerity, to make sure the markets believe in us.

“If we have economic growth then the 0.7 per cent [Britain’s commitment of its gross national income to foreign aid] won’t be an issue.”

Two out of five charities fear that they may be forced to close because of funding uncertainty, according to a survey by the Charities Aid Foundation, with almost half already forced to dip into their reserves.

Of the 252 charities interviewed, 80 per cent said that the sector faced a crisis if the economic situation did not soon improve.

Paul Rees, executive director at Charities Aid Foundation, said that the Government should be doing more to protect charities. “Charities are a key part of the fabric of our society and  provide services we all depend upon, such as hospices, medical research and women’s refuges,” he said.

“However, at a time when demand for their services is higher than ever, donations have slumped and public spending has been substantially cut. That is why we need the Government, business and the public to back Britain’s charities.”