Interesting findings from the Charities Commission, who are suggesting that trust amongst the Great British Public for charities is plummeting, with only around a third of people believing they are transparent in the aims and methods.

Julia Unwin, the director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is on record in the Times saying that the charities sector has been rocked, understandably, by a series of scandals, and that the fall in public trust is a mirror of how general faith in politics has similarly dipped. This is hardly surprising, especially given just how deeply in each others’ pockets charities and government find themselves these days.

Everything from the Kids’ Club scandal to the death of a pensioner inundated with requests, bordering on demands, for donations, are given as reasons why trust is diminishing. But could there be something else afoot?

Two things come to mind when charities are in the equation. The first, of course, is executive pay. Everyone knows running a charity these days is a gravy train for life, and the bigger the charity, the richer the gravy. The reasoning is that charities need to offer ‘competitive’ salaries in order to attract the best people to run them, but frankly, people no longer feel comfortable knowing they are handing over their hard earned cash to line the pockets of some suit, rather than towards buying mosquito nets or funding cancer research.

But increasingly the public are becoming aware that many charities receive significantly more ample sums that they are still funding – but this time not through choice. Charities then receive cash from the government: taken from the taxpayer, and given on their behalf to special-interest groups, in order for them to pay high salaries, and to lobby the government. Sounds reasonable? Sounds trustworthy?

This first point then leads neatly into the second: can you remember the last time a charity achieved its mission? Ever heard of one to announce, Dubya Bush style, ‘mission accomplished’ and sail off into the sunset? Of course not; then the cushy jobs of the busybody class would cease to exist.

It is the nature of charities to find reasons for their continued existence, and so they come up with a myriad of new reasons to exist. Take a body focused on, say, tobacco regulation, that achieves all it has ever aimed for. What to do? Take redundancy? No! move on to the next evil! Could it be sugar? Formula milk? Alcohol? Why be limited to one? The more causes, the more money!

These charities are what the esteemed Chris Snowdon of the Institute for Economic Affairs refers to as ‘sock puppets’: existing entirely to lobby governments, but funding themselves with government money, and essentially promoting government policy, masquerading as an independent body in return for vast sums. Today, 27,000 charities in the UK operate with 75% of their funding coming directly from the government. It’s a truly staggering sum.

And the worst part? Most if not all of these charities – funded by us, without our consent, to change our lives against our will – do not want changes that the public agree with. If they did, they wouldn’t need 75% of their funding to be quietly handed to them by the government!

If a man with a sock puppet on his hand claimed he knew better than you how to spend your money and live your life, you wouldn’t trust him; in that sense, it’s understandable why we distrust politicians. But only a lunatic would listen to the sock puppet itself. It’s no wonder we no longer trust charities.

by Winston Smith