Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Playing politics with child poverty

Today I received another of the many missives I get from Save the Children asking me to increase my donations. At the moment, I have not cancelled my standing order but I am now looking for a similar – but more worthwhile – recipient of my very modest monthly standing order. Suggestions gratefully received. 

Meanwhile, here’s my e-mail correspondence with the alleged charity now run by Justin Forsyth, Gordon Brown’s ex-spin doctor. It is no coincidence that the charity is now campaigning about child poverty in this country.
e-mail to Save the Children 

I hear you are embarking on a new campaign to relieve child poverty in the UK. 

I have sponsored kids through Save the Children for more than 30 years but I am so outraged that they have descended into domestic politics I will cancel my standing order.  

Compared with real poverty, there is nothing to get upset about. This is just a calculated descent into politicking and I despise it. 

Can you offer me any reasons why I should not abandon Save the Children and transfer my modest donations to a charity which knows the difference between genuine poverty and the mild deprivations some children suffer in this country?

Yours truly, 

Nigel Hastilow 

Their reply: 

Dear Nigel 

Thank you for your email. I am extremely sorry to learn that our recent UK appeal has led you to question your kind support of Save the Children. 

It is simply not the case that this is a political campaign. We have a long history of challenging governments on the decisions they make that affect children and Save the Children has also campaigned and worked to tackle UK poverty for many years. Child poverty is an issue which all political parties need to act urgently on and as a leading children's charity it is right that we speak out on children's behalf - children who have told us how tough times are for them.  

Save the Children works anywhere in the world where we see injustice to inspire breakthroughs for children; we save children’s lives, fight for their rights and help them fulfil their potential. The UK is no exception. We believe no child should live in poverty or have their life chances ruined by deprivation. The countries where we are working with children dying from easily preventable diseases tend to be amongst the poorest in the world. The UK is one of the richest countries in the world and children should not be growing up missing out on basic essentials with their parents skipping meals and in the most extreme cases going hungry so their children can eat. We are working to break the vicious cycle which keeps people poor - generation after generation, because every child born in to poverty is losing their chance of a full and productive life. It is never the child’s fault.

However, we are an international charity and work in over 120 countries with some of the world's most vulnerable children. The majority of our work is overseas in developing countries. This is where the majority of the funds we receive are spent and we will continue to work with the poorest children across the world. This reflects our position as a charity for all children, everywhere. 

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for all the support you have given in the past, which will have made such a positive difference to children’s lives. I do hope that you may still be able to continue to support our important work in the future. If you do have any further comments to add, please do not hesitate to contact me on 020 7012 6400 or email 

Kind regards,

Heather Roberts
Supporter Care Adviser
Individual Giving and Legacies
Save the Children, 1 St John's Lane, London EC1M 4AR

My reply:

How can you possibly claim “It is simply not the case that this is a political campaign” and, in the very next sentence, say: “Child poverty is an issue which all political parties need to act urgently on”?

I really do resent the idea that you are squandering money in this country when there is real, genuine, murderous poverty in other parts of the world. I think it is a disgrace.

How many children on the point of death could have been saved by the money you have already wasted simply on publicising this campaign?

Their response:

Dear Nigel 

Thank you for your email. I am sorry that it has taken longer than I would like to reply to you.

Save the Children is an apolitical organisation and as such we are not motivated by political affiliations. We will always act based on the needs of children, working to ensure that this mandate is carried out regardless of the political or cultural circumstances. However, in order to achieve this mandate it is necessary to work with national authorities, including governments and politicians, as they have the power to make the big changes that children need. Therefore, as mentioned we are calling on all political parties to act. We carry out campaigning and advocacy work because this tackles root causes, rather than just responding to the immediate need.  

When a government takes an action towards supporting the needs of children we applaud that action and likewise we challenge decisions which have a negative impact. Last year, we undertook a massive campaign for a boost in vaccine funding from world leaders. Leaders from around the world gathered at a summit for the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation in London. They had to decide whether or not to fill a $3.7 billion funding gap that would provide vaccines for 250 million of the world's poorest children. As a result of our campaigning, pressure and advocacy work and the hard work and determination of our amazing supporters, a fantastic $4.34 billion was secured. This will save 4 million children's lives, which I hope you agree is a phenomenal achievement. More information on this can be found on the following link You may also like to read about our recent successes in encouraging David Cameron to hold a Hunger Summit during the Olympics, which will also be in your latest edition of ‘Children Now.’ We made positive comments on both of these outcomes not because of any political prejudice or sympathy, but purely for the reason that this funding and attention will have a dramatically positive impact on the lives of millions of children. 

We also undertake campaigning and advocacy work overseas. For example, in Sierra Leone 1.5 million children and their mothers now have access to free healthcare after an announcement made by the government of Sierra Leone in September 2010 and implemented from April 2011 following efforts from our advocacy and campaigns team which highlighted the plight of mothers and children who were not using health services due to user fees.


Save the Children has worked in the UK for over 90 years and throughout our history we have made huge breakthroughs for children. For example, following a report by Save the Children on the importance of school meals for children’s nutrition and development, school meals and milk became free. Today, over half of children living in poverty live in households where at least one parent works. Currently the cost of childcare is high – on average £177 a week – so there is little money left over for other living costs. Save the Children is campaigning for more government childcare support to make work pay for the poorest families and we are also encouraging more employers to pay the Living Wage which would give families the ability to provide the essentials for their children,

These are just a few examples of what Save the Children have called for in order to make sure that government policies do what is best for the interest of children. By having no political affiliations we can be critical of government policies, both here and overseas in order to improve the lives of children all around the world. You have also mentioned that you are concerned about the money which is being spent on our programmes in the UK and other activities and you are very welcome to read a thorough breakdown on how we raise and spend our money by downloading our latest Annual Report from our website. If you would prefer a hard copy of this, please do provide me with your full address and postcode and I will put one in the post for you.

Thank you again for getting in touch with us and for sharing your concerns with us.

Kind regards

Heather Roberts
Supporter Care Adviser
Individual Giving and Legacies
Save the Children, 1 St John's Lane, London EC1M 4AR


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