Former minister criticises charity for ‘activism’ and discussing white privilege

Vice president of charity hits back, saying organisation ‘will keep raising the issues that matter for all vulnerable children regardless of where they were born, how much their parents earned, or the colour of their skin’

Bethany Dawson
Sunday 06 December 2020 19:26
<p>Conservative MP and former work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey</p>

Conservative MP and former work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey

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A former Conservative minister has accused the UK’s biggest children’s charity of “sowing the seeds of guilt” by discussing racial inequality and the impacts of white privilege in the UK. 

Her comments come in response to a blog post by Barnardo’s which aims to offer a guide to parents on how to talk to their children about racial inequality in the UK. 

In an opinion piece for The Sunday Telegraph, Esther McVey, the Conservative MP for Tatton, said the efforts made by Barnardo’s could be “hijacked by people who want to use it as a platform for their political views”.

She said it would jeopardise Barnardo’s fundraising efforts it if it becomes “yet another charity more obsessed with political correctness and virtue signalling than actually helping people in need”.

The blog post states: “For the one in five Barnardo’s service users who are black, Asian or minority ethnic, the colour of their skin is an additional factor that negatively affects them and their families in a multitude of well documented ways.”

The article referenced well evidenced examples of white privilege, including higher employment rates, lower rates of prosecution and sentencing and a longer life expectancy for white people, with black African women having a mortality rate four times higher than white women in the UK.

The blog post states that being white doesn’t mean life is not hard, but it means it is not made harder because of your race. 

“At Barnardo’s we believe … we have a responsibility to raise awareness of all issues affecting children – no matter how difficult or uncomfortable,” the blog says. “Four in five of our service users are white – and we know only too well the inequality and disadvantage they face daily.

“Helping children and those who nurture them, to understand what white privilege really means will not only prevent future generations from growing up to ignore race as an issue – but to be actively anti-racist through their actions.”

Reflecting on the help she received from the charity when she was a child in the care system, Ms McVey said while she will always be “grateful” to Barnardo's, she was “deeply troubled” by its decision to “divert its attention to political activism”.

She continued: “This is such a misguided and misjudged move away from what the charity is about and what it ought to be doing.

“Barnardo’s is too important a charity to be hijacked by people who want to use it as a platform for their political views.”

On Friday, a group of 12 Conservative MPs reportedly wrote a letter to Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan, to express their “concern and disappointment” over the post.

According to The Guardian, the MPs described the post as “ideological dogma” and “divisive militancy”. They also asked for it to be investigated by the Charity Commission.

The charity's vice president, Dr David Barnardo, hit back at the letter, telling the paper: “Barnardo's will keep raising the issues that matter for all vulnerable children regardless of where they were born, how much their parents earned, or the colour of their skin.

“Sometimes that conversation will be uncomfortable, but avoiding discussion of issues that are deeply important for entire communities of people is no longer acceptable.”

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