The Government is in danger of damaging public trust and confidence in charities by overstating the risk of terrorists abusing charities, according to NCVO.
This follows the news that the National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit, which had been looking into how the London bombings of July 2005 were financed, had linked eight charities to the events. Six other charities have been associated with terrorist groups suspected of planning subsequent attacks.
However, the Home Office and HM Treasury’s consultation document – Review of Safeguards to Protect the Charitable Sector from Terrorist Abuse – released earlier this month suggested that the current scale of terrorist links to charities was extremely small in comparison with the size of the charitable sector. At the same time it recognised that the scope for exploitation of charities by terrorists could become a significant aspect of the terrorist finance threat if it does not receive appropriate and co-ordinated action now by the sector, regulator and government.
NCVO agrees that the threat is very small, but director of public policy Liz Atkins said: By placing a veil of suspicion over all charities, the Government is in danger of damaging the trusted reputation of the voluntary sector and making people less likely to donate to good causes.
NCVO was also part of an advisory group that published a report, ‘Security and Civil Society – the impact of counter terrorism measures on civil society organisations’, in January, and which criticised the government’s approach to the terrorist abuse of charities. Its aim was to influence the content of the Home Office/Treasury report.
The Charity Commission has welcomed the Government document and stressed that to be successful there needed to be close co-operation between the regulator, the sector and the rest of government. The Commission will publish a full response to the consultation and set out plans to increase its capacity in this area after further discussions with the charity sector.
Responses to the Home Office document must be in by 2 August.
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