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Charity, Is It a Good Thing?

So I am writing this in response to “The trouble with charity … and honours” by Nigel Thornton published in ‘Peterborough Today’ earlier this week.

The full article can be found at:

“David Beckham’s charity efforts put me to shame – in fact most people’s do.

Unlike David, who let’s face it is the ultimate chugger – I don’t give of my time to help others and if I’m honest I rarely put my hand in my pocket and drop coins in a tin. And if I do, it’s usually because I’ve been embarrassed into it.

I’m not mean and my heart is not made of stone so why do I have such a problem?

It is the frightening randomness of charity that unsettles me. Who says children with that terrible condition, are more deserving than children with that other terrible disease?

The most successful charities are often the ones that offer the best photo-opportunity and/or possess the most well-oiled fund-raising machine. And that can’t be right.

It’s not that I think the recipients of charity are not worthy of it – far from it. I just believe that in a mature, sophisticated society like ours people who need help shouldn’t be dependent on the kindness of strangers.

Instead I think we should all pay more taxes. I realise I’d never get elected and I don’t think my old mucker Becks would agree judging by what I’ve been reading has been alleged about his tax affairs.

But that extra revenue could then be used to help people who need it.

Becks and other celebrities wouldn’t have to work so hard encouraging us all to cough up on an ad hoc basis.

There is one huge flaw in my plan – and that is it would undermine those fantastic people who man cake stalls in draughty halls, cycle from here to far away, and shave their heads.

Amazingly, most of them don’t do it because they want rewarding they do it because they are good people.

In Peterborough we have many fantastic small charities run by people who make a difference.

Michelle King and Little Miracles, Steve Thorpe and Sam Downing at the Free Kicks Foundation, John and Rosie Sandall’s Chernobyl charity to name just three fantastic organisations.

I am genuinely in awe of these people and the work they do.

Like Becks, I’m not a fan of our honours system (although I think we may have different reasons) but if anyone deserves a gong it’s people like Michelle, Steve, Sam, Rosie and John.

I’m not forgetting Becks – he should be given the Freedom of Bridge Street (freeman are allowed to ride a bike down the street and sit on a blanket with their dog) and be the king of the chuggers.”

Whilst a lovely mention for us I suspect many people would be surprised to know that I share a lot of Thorntons ideals but perhaps come from a slightly different angle.

Before Little Miracles started I was quite idealistic. I thought that as parents of disabled children we could work together with the local authority and make things better for our own families and I can see the difference that those amazing organisations have made. However ultimately many of the changes came to late for what my son needed at the time.

Seven years ago when Little Miracles started we had a plan – that plan was to get families together to make an instant difference to their lives. We expected to exist for a few years we planned for a maximum of 10. Perhaps we were idealistic with hopes that by then things will have changed and our children would have all of the support they needed without having to rely on the help of charities. Where I feel we have been particularly successful is in reacting to the families needs and changing our services quickly to meet them.

It is an honour to work with families and know that we are helping but surely these are services that all families with disabled children should have access to? – Charity shouldn’t need to come into it. I agree wholeheartedly with Thortons idea that there are so many amazing organisations out there that we shouldn’t have to be competing for financial support but I worry about the idea of paying more taxes as the way forward.

The recent cuts have been horrendous for everyone however the people who have struggled the most are those who rely on the State for support. Families affected by bedroom taxes, benefit caps and increases in the amounts they need to pay e.g. for things like council tax would suffer again with taxes being increased in order to pay for what they should of been entitled to in the first place. These are the things that come to mind first however this is only the tip of the iceberg. What about the families withdrawing their children from schools because the specialist school is full and the mainstream school that their autistic child has been put into cannot cope with their needs.

I don’t have all the answers but one area where we need to look is to how taxes are collected and ensure that those who should be paying are, and close the loopholes that are exploited at the direct cost of families like those we support.

Little Miracles has been going seven years next moth and I am no longer as naive. We thought that we would of gained the publicity needed to get statutory services investing in the early intervention, support and advice that families need to ensure that they have the best outcomes for everyone in the family and be able to close within ten years. Instead what the last seven years have shown us is that we have barely scratched the surface and that there are more people than we could ever imagine in need of support.

We have grown to be supporting families in 11 areas and instead of being able to reduce the support we are providing we are having to look at new and inventive ways to be able to off more and to set up branches in new areas.

Is Charity a good thing? Ultimately my personal view is no. Nobody should feel beholden to anyone for their needs to be met however I also cannot see it changing any time soon and until it does please consider donating to us here so we can continue to provide support to families that have disabled children.