Charity Begins At Home

Give and take weathers the storm...

Give and take weathers the storm…

You just never know what turn of events is in store for you or how fragile is the life you believe to be set in stone, never to change. Years ago I was at school with someone who thought it was fun to emulate physical disabilities in a mocking style. There were those around him who would laugh out of fear of not being in the ‘right’ crowd.


It has always baffled me why anyone should have any quandary over aligning with such behaviour but then, being part of any crowd has never been a draw for me, and observing such sheep-like stupidity (apologies to sheep and other victims of stereotyping) was never likely to change my mind.


The last I heard, He was quadriplegic, following a motorcycle accident. The person who told me didn’t know if he had any level of awareness – now. They were more concerned about the drama of the news.


That was all a long time ago but the lesson of how life changing events can occur at any moment remained with me, though I believe I always had a value of what was important to support and protect in my world, though a little more of that should have been directed towards myself. ‘It could be you’ is far more than a financial lottery slogan – it goes for life.


A news report today speaks of people who have died while waiting for appropriate mental health support. I can imagine some of those in charge considering that as relief of pressure upon services as the human cost is rarely fully evaluated. Maybe I’ve just become cynical.


But, I’ve always been considered generous, within my modest means, in terms of making regular donations of small amounts of money to charities. I have always believed, even more, in donating time – an actual bit of my self – to actually, physically try to address some issue. Despite your own problems there is always someone in greater need and it is truly humbling and perspective-changing to put yourself out there to make some small difference. That’s the payback. Perspective.


I became ill as a result of the pressure I was subjected to after querying the protocols, behaviour and spending priorities of my employers – a registered charity – when they were awarded their largest single tranche of funding. Prior to that my work had been profiled to funders as typical of the organisation. It was not. My work was honest. But that is the way it works – I just didn’t get that.


In the interim period I’ve met too many others who have met a similar fate and suffered for their integrity. They too, have followed protocols, raised the alarm with the relevant bodies, contacted their council representatives, Union, legal advisers, all of whom fear the power of the big charities and the cost of returning the care services they now fulfil, back within the NHS or other local authority body.


It doesn’t matter what those who take responsibility for the vulnerable do, so long as it looks like the service is being maintained. Justifying their existence, remuneration package and future career advancement is what’s become important. Those, for whom the services were originally devised, have become tender, a commodity, examples of someone else’s validity.


Pound for pound, the charities that achieve the best results are those set up by non-professionals with a desire to fulfil a desperate need. These are people who give more than they can afford in either money, time, energy or life-force, to make something happen. Some may receive a piecemeal grant award but they don’t have ‘connections’ or a team to lobby funding bodies, so miss out on most of what they deserve and need.


A few survive and prosper, not by using funding to create a tax efficient property portfolio and other assets list, that comes later when the business heads recognise the true grit ‘opportunity’ waiting to be plundered. They will be swallowed up by an ‘established’ charity with ‘greater resources’ and the guts will be ripped from the honest effort of all the work those original founders gave for the good of their cause.


I’ve heard that story so many times over the past year – and that’s just in my area. On a wider scale I’ve heard of staff mistreatment by organisation whose cause I gladly supported. Now I withdraw my support – not from the original cause – but from the organisations I feel are now only there to meet their own individuals’ needs.


That’s a shame but I feel those in whose name the charities operate are already losing out in favour of those who claim to represent them. Following my AS diagnosis this year, I’ve been keen to discover the lay of the land in terms of local and national services that claim to be there to support and advise me and I’m largely tempted to be happy about being left to my own devices in that specific sense.


I’ve had more relevant advice and encouragement from other services I’ve accessed, namely my local branch of the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and my local NHS Physiotherapy Department. They give me hope as elsewhere I continue to be faced with more reasons to lose hope, and that’s the difference that individuals within any organisation can make. The argument that you pay great wages to management to get the results of great management clearly doesn’t stack up.


Recently, I attended a conference billed as autism friendly, to learn about one of those charities that I might be in need of in the future. I may as well have been back in my old workplace being bullied for trying to support the people we claimed to support.


I left feeling very disheartened, there as a token of ‘what we help’ but resolved to not hope that any support I give to charity in the future goes to the right and intended place or people, but to make sure it does. I withdraw completely from giving handouts based on emotional blackmail or will-chasing, and take up the aim of actively seeking out those local groups that can’t afford to promote themselves because they are busy doing what matters. So I’ll look for what matters to me.


I’m going to find them, see how they make a difference and then reallocate what I used to spend on ‘out of mind’ direct debits, on them instead. Localism spreading will connect people with their locale and the prevailing issues around them and I believe that will force the biggies to readdress the way they raise funds and manage themselves.


I hope it will force the regulators to review eligibility and the tax arrangements and benefits on offer will be reviewed, so that any asset rich charity with a pot of cash stashed away as a contingency fund when their investments go bad, goes to the back of the queue when funding bodies look at who deserves what – and that goes for funding from local authorities too – when handing out tax-payers’ cash to reduce services using smoke and mirrors to confuse, well, local tax-payers.


No more staff harassment, zero-hours contracts, denial of union recognition, in-house grievance hearings (external ACAS monitored protocols required), bad management practices. No more standing by and watching the charities demonstrating the worst of human nature, when their very foundation was built on the best of human nature and its continuance relies on altruism and sincerity.


The Execs of charities can be valued by the remuneration packages they arrange for themselves and their cronies, compared with the way they treat their staff and even their volunteers, with ever more demands and poorer conditions.


Charity begins at home, so, charities; lead by example by agreeing honourable principles in the behaviour you adopt, the policies and values you uphold and the practices you follow. If you have fear of whistleblowers then you’re up to something we should all take a look at.


Charity begins at home, so look at what you need to do to be kind to yourself. If you need to be told that, then it’s you I’m speaking to. The rest, you are in the other tent and need to be less selfish. Look around at your local needs and find those amazing people who make big things happen in a small, unassuming way, locally. See what connects with you and give whatever you can in terms of time or even a cash donation. Tell people what wonders are being worked in your area. Become the effective advertising they cannot afford. Go to sleep knowing that you can then be absolutely certain that you have done something really worthwhile that will have had a genuinely beneficial impact on another human being.  This is how I plan to recover.  I’ll use self reliance as much as I can until it gets back to the level I knew before – then I’ll really have a story to tell.



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