There Is a Big Different Between Charity and Begging

While I have concerns at how some charities are run, I do recognise the about of good many charities have provided individuals, in a matter that is open, accountable and legal, as formally constituted organisations. Even if a specific project is not linked to a charity number, it is often in their best interests to be open and transparent about their activities, especially it is now so easy to look on Google and find out everything you can on them, good or bad.

Many disabled people require specialist equipment, technology or other assistance in one way or another, and it is not almost possible to get this from NHS services, Access to Work or other government schemes, and so they need to apply to charities for assistance. There are plenty of charities willing to help in ways people may not even expect, and the hardest problem is often finding out about the charities. I have been collecting information about organisations and charities for over 20 years and I am still finding established charities every day to add to my collection.

One thing that most disabled people however realise is a definite no no, in the ethics of being disabled, is directly begging to the public for money to purchase personal items. We all use our ‘disability’ in one way or another, such as jumping the queue in a bank, in the same way women sometimes used their gender. My attitude is the small benefits I have to being disabled, will never outweigh the disadvantages within my lifetime, so let karma do its work. But begging to your peers for things everyone could benefit from, like laptops and tablets, is taking the biscuit.

While I can totally understand homeless people asking people for change, and I saw a lot of disabled people begging when I visited New York, but they did it with some dignity like it was a proper job, in a country that does not have the same welfare system as the UK. I can also understand families and friends of disabled children, who wish to fundraise locally to purchase an essential piece of equipment the state is refusing to provide, because it is often very clear and open to what its for, and accountable to that community.

But when disabled adults are ‘crowd funding’ because they want the latest top of the raise tablet for their own personal benefit, then I think it is crossing the line for a number of reasons. Firstly, if they are on ‘out-of-work’ benefits, then they need to declare the money they raise as income to DWP and HMRC, otherwise they could be regarded as committing benefit and/or tax fraud, especially if we are talking a few hundred pounds raised in a few days. Secondly, if they receive ESA for being unfit for work, the fact they are able to fundraise may demonstrate that they can in fact work, again triggering alarm bells with DWP.

Finally, we can not become a nation where it is acceptable for anyone to crowd fund whatever they want, especially when people are supposedly unfit for work, or indeed unwilling to work, but expect those who work to directly fund their lifestyle through donations, as well as indirectly through taxation to pay for their benefits. If all crowd funding websites become is a ‘x-factor’ of sob stories as people directly compete for heart strings without the accountability of charities, then it will become a mess that will remove the incentive for anyone to work as people become increasingly dependent on socially acceptable begging.

I know that I have recently tried ‘crowd funding’ to fund my virtual disability themed nightclub ‘Wheelies’ although I am self-employed and while this project is not linked to any registered charity, its’ public benefit is well established and documented. The club does not make money and comes out of my own pocket, so I believe it is appropriate to seek funding. I also recently put a donate button on the top of my website, on every page, with the thinking that I have written a lot of useful materials that I make freely available on my site, and if people wish to make a small contribution to my running costs, they should have the option.

But I would never dream to trying to fund my next tablet by begging my peers to pay for it, assuming I was someone special, and I feel it is certainly crossing the line of decency. If I did feel I needed help funding my technology, then I would look at approaching charities, who can judge my eligibility accordingly.

from Simon Stevens


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