Saturday, 20 November 2010

£18 trillion raised for Children in Need?

Pudsey says: "You have raised an incredible £18,098,199 MILLION!"

£18 trillion! That really would be incredible.

I suspect Pudsey really meant the rather more modest sum of £18 million, which is about what the government borrows every hour.

Still, unlike Oxfam, Children in Need isn't an obviously fake charity. The donations come from the public, and are freely given. However, they receive support from the BBC — an organisation that is most definitely not funded by voluntary exchange.

Here's note 18 from their 2009 accounts,
The BBC Children in Need Appeal is the principal UK corporate Charity of the BBC and as such is supported by the BBC in a number of ways including but not limited to:
  • the provision of office space, postage and other services at no charge
  • the preparation and broadcast of the annual BBC One Appeal Show including national and regional programming content
  • the extensive support of BBC Radio 2 both on the day of the Appeal and in the build up through promotion,
  • competition, 24 hour music marathon and the “things that money can’t buy” auction on the Terry Wogan show: ’Wake up to Wogan’
  • significant promotional support and coverage of the Appeal across the BBC local television and radio network in the days before the Appeal and on Appeal night
  • the provision and maintenance of the BBC Children in Need pages of the BBC’s website
The costs of support through the provision of office space, postage and other services have been valued at £510,205. Many of the other elements of the support are very difficult to quantify as they are not discrete activities but embedded, partly as newsworthy and entertainment content, within the operations and business of the BBC. The Appeal show provides valuable content, which attracts a large audience, and without it the BBC would have to produce alternative content. As such the value of support provided by the BBC has not been included in the Charity’s Statement of Financial Activities
So, setting aside the unanswerable question about whether licence-fee payers believe that CiN-related broadcasts provide "valuable content", there is at least half a million pounds worth of "office space, postage and other services". We all support CiN, whether we want to or not.

Why grumble, though? It's for the children, after all. And they are so very needy.

Well, some of them are, yes. But viewers might be surprised at where much of the grant money ends up. Here's Ross Clark, from a 2007 Spectator article
You know the format: Terry Wogan introduces an evening of smiling kiddies overcoming misfortune and meeting celebs: please give generously.

And give generously viewers do: £18,300,392 on the night of last year’s event. But it would be a mistake to assume that the smiling kiddies were getting all the money. What’s this? A sum of £59,521 went to something called the Womenzone Community Centre in Bradford, which offers training for local women, plus a gym and steam room. Another £20,000 went to Until the Violence Stops, the domestic violence pressure group started by Eve Ensler, writer of The Vagina Monologues. Other handouts went to Brent Women’s Aid, Angolan Women’s Association and numerous local women’s groups. Perhaps most remarkably, £12,481 went to Women in Prison, a pressure group that campaigns against the incarceration of females, declaring, ‘Prison does not work. The best way to cut women’s offending is to deal with its root causes.’

In other words, some of the money you thought was going to buy wheelchairs for stricken children is really going to campaign on behalf of jailbirds. I am sure many of these charities do valuable work but, even so, to invoke images of sick children — the emblem of Children In Need being a bandaged teddy — and then to give much of the cash raised to battered women does seem a little underhand. To paraphrase the Ronseal advert, Children In Need doesn’t quite do what it says on the collection tin.

You can see for yourself where the money goes. It's all very politically correct:

£20,000 for Bradford Trident: "This project will provide activities to promote community cohesion for eastern european children living in Bradford"

£99,782 for the Bangladeshi Community Association Bradford (BCAB): "This project will improve the self esteem and aspirations of 160 young people in Bradford by providing a range of activities including sports, social inclusion, citizenship and life skills"

£109,164 for the Indian Muslim Welfare Society: "This project will provide activities three times per week for disadvantaged Asian children in Batley."

£82,910 for Gay and Lesbian Youth in Calderdale.

£118,597 for a project to "provide play work support for children who are visiting their mother whilst she is resident at HMP New Hall"

That's quite a lot of money, especially compared to the £7,200 for "Down Syndrome Support Group Bradford".

Whatever you may think about the value of the projects listed above, Ross Clark is right: "Children In Need doesn’t quite do what it says on the collection tin".
Perhaps of greatest interest to donors to Children In Need was the £56,123 which went to a charity called the Children’s Legal Centre, a group which offers free legal advice to children — or in some cases to fund legal cases. Most notable of these was the case of Shabina Begum, who took Denbigh High School, Luton, to court over its refusal to allow her to wear a jilbab — a full-length Islamic gown — in contravention of the school’s uniform policy. Shabina, who was represented by Cherie Booth, eventually lost her case in the House of Lords a year ago.

Was that really what donors had in mind when they whipped out their credit cards in reaction to the stories of juvenile cancer victims: that a slice of their donation would be going into the pockets of Cherie Blair to help a teenage girl sue her school over her refusal to wear a school uniform? I am all for charitable giving, but I do wish that BBC viewers would take a little more care to read the small print before falling for emotional blackmail of the corporation’s big charity campaigns.
The other offensive thing about Children in Need is that it boosts the egos of overpaid celebrities. The newsreaders prance around, donating their valuable time for the sake of the children. So noble. Then they go back to their day job of protesting government cuts.

If they really cared about the children, they'd worry a little more about the national debt.

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