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Understanding Political vs Party Political Activity for DPOs During the 2024 UK General Election

As the 2024 UK General Election approaches, it's crucial for Disabled Peoples' Organisations (DPOs) to understand the distinction between political (e.g. Supporting Policies, Campaigning for change and using emotive accurate material) and party political activity. This guide will help you navigate the rules and regulations, empowering you to advocate for human rights and disability policies without breaching charity law.

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Campaigning for Change

Ensure Fairnes

Maintain Legitimacy

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Why It's Important to Stick to Charity Guidelines

Adhering to charity guidelines ensures that DPOs can effectively advocate for the rights and welfare of disabled individuals while maintaining their charitable status and public trust.

 

These rules help:

  1. Maintain Legitimacy: Following guidelines keeps your charity's activities within legal bounds, preserving its legitimacy and integrity.

  2. Ensure Fairness: Neutrality in political matters ensures that your charity remains inclusive and fair, not alienating any supporters or beneficiaries.

  3. Prevent Misuse: Adherence to guidelines prevents the misuse of charitable resources for political gains, keeping the focus on charitable objectives.

Understanding Political Activity vs. Party Political Activity

Political Activity

Political activity involves securing support for or opposing changes in law or policy. For DPOs, this means advocating for legislation and policies that advance the rights and welfare of disabled individuals and align with the UNCRPD and the social model of disability - a core aspect of their mission. This is fully permittable under the charity commission regulation.

The social model of disability and the UNCRPD is, by nature, political. It demands that systemic and interpersonal disablement in society is broken down and for the full rights and equity of disabled people to be achieved globally.

Party Political Activity

On the other hand, party political activity includes supporting or opposing specific political parties or candidates.

 

This activity is restricted for charities to maintain impartiality and public trust.

Be Brave About Speaking on Disabled People's Rights

Being Brave About Speaking on Disabled People's Rights

 

Many DPOs shy away from discussing policies, e.g. Personal Independence Payment (PIP) policies, and how these either violate or adhere to the UNCRPD due to fears of being misunderstood as engaging in party-political activity. However, it's important to know that being political is permitted under charity law as long as it aligns with the charity's objectives and remains non-partisan.

Despite the need to follow these guidelines, it's crucial for DPOs to be courageous in advocating for disabled people's rights (e.g. Supporting Policies, Campaigning for change and using emotive, accurate material), particularly during election times. This is a pivotal moment to:

  • Raise Awareness: Elections are key opportunities to bring disability rights to the forefront of public and political discourse.

  • Influence Policy: Engaging in political activity can help influence policies that directly impact the lives of disabled people.

  • Promote Equality: Advocating for the UNCRPD and the social model of disability fosters a more inclusive society.

What is CC9?

CC9 is the guidance from the Charity Commission on campaigning and political activity for charities, released in 2019. It recognises that while political activity can be legitimate and valuable for charities, it is subject to specific rules to ensure compliance with charity objectives.

Political Activity vs. Campaigning

  • Political Activity: Efforts to secure support for, or opposition to, changes in law or policy.

  • Campaigning: Activities aimed at raising awareness, educating the public, influencing public attitudes, or ensuring the enforcement of existing laws.

What Does CC9 Allow?

Permitted Activities

  • Campaigning for Change: Advocating for changes in law, policy, or decisions that support your charity's objectives.

  • Supporting Policies: Backing specific policies advocated by political parties, provided they further your charitable goals.

  • Using Emotive Material: Employing emotive or controversial material, as long as it is accurate, evidence-based, and justifiable.

Prohibited Activities

  • Sole Activity: Political activity cannot be the charity's only focus or reason for existence.

  • Political Party Support: Providing support or funding to political parties or candidates is not allowed.

  • Personal Political Views: Charities cannot become platforms for staff or trustees to express their personal party-political opinions.

Special Considerations Once an Election is Called

During election periods, DPOs are permitted to and should be empowered to campaign for Change and support policies released in manifestos.

When campaigning and supporting policies, DPOs must ensure party-political neutrality and maintain independence from a party. This includes avoiding any actions that could be seen as supporting or opposing specific parties over another.

  • Political Neutrality: Charities must maintain party neutrality, avoiding providing resources to any political candidate.

  • No Endorsements: Charities cannot indicate who supporters should vote for. However they can share candidates' views, but they must not express your charity’s opinions on them.

  • Independent Policy Positions: It's acceptable for your policy stance to align with a candidate’s, but you must maintain independence.

  • Approaching Candidates: Engaging with candidates is allowed, provided it doesn't create an impression of charity association with any candidate.

Practical Implications

  • Objective-Driven Activity: Ensure that any activity directly helps achieve your charity's objectives.

  • Avoid Partisan Perceptions: Carefully consider whether your actions could be seen as supporting a particular candidate or party.

  • Policy Support vs. Party Support: Support specific policies, not political parties. Engage in policy discussions without assisting any party in getting elected.

  • Cross-Party Engagement: Interact with parties across the political spectrum, without concern if some parties decline your invitations

Conclusion

By following these guidelines, DPOs can effectively engage in political activities, advocating for the rights and welfare of disabled individuals while staying within the bounds of charity law. It's essential to be bold and proactive in discussing disabled people's rights, ensuring that these critical issues are addressed both during and after election periods.

For more detailed guidance, refer to the Charity Commission's CC9 document and stay informed about your legal obligations during election periods.

References:

  1. Z2K Fighting Poverty (2024). Introduction to political activity and campaigning regulation, Evangeline Knapman, Campaigns Officer.

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