The founder of a homeless charity has claimed she won’t be able to receive any Lottery funding unless she stops publicly criticising universal credit and the government. She claimed an official told her to not express any more of her opinions about universal credit and the government or she won’t receive any money.
The Big Lottery Fund is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The charity was set up last year to help homeless and vulnerable people in Torbay. The charity founder and chief executive, Ellie Waugh, has previously said that an unofficial policy of ‘social cleansing’ is being applied to remove homeless people from Torquay town centre.
The charity has been offering support services and food to the homeless and disadvantaged groups from its offices in Castle Road, opposite Torquay Town Hall.
Waugh said it had been feeding around 200 people a week during the summer, with up to 500 in the winter, and there was a group of around 20 regular visitors who spent a lot of time at the centre.
Last December the charity applied to the Conservative Torbay Council for permission to use the building as an advice centre so the services could carry on being provided at the building.
Earlier this year a business leader controversially accused the charity of ‘attracting more homeless people to the area’, and blamed that for causing a fall in takings at some shops.
Waugh said the charity was told in July it had to stop feeding people and to only permit a maximum of five clients at a time in the building.
In January Waugh said the charity was asked by a senior Torbay councillor to close early on a day when major investors were coming to discuss a multi-million development – because homeless people were an ‘eyesore’. And there was more controversy a month later when Torquay Chamber of Trade chairman Susie Colley blamed the charity for an increase in rough-sleeping and begging in the town centre, which was ‘harming trade and seeing shop takings fall.’
In March, business people in the seaside town started naming and shaming beggars they believe to be “fake” as part of a campaign to drive them off the streets. The Sun, however, has claimed that these business people are a part of the charity, whic of course is rubbish. The vigilante campaign was started by a pub owner, Ashley Sims, who threatened to ‘name and shame anyone falsely claiming to be homeless.’ The campaign was heavily criticised by the police.
Many people support the charity’s work at the centre and a petition with 81 names backing the application was handed in to Torbay Council in May.
In October the charity said it had found homes for more than 600 people and jobs or training for 150 more.
One supporter wrote: “This is a vital service needed for the vulnerable, homeless and those in need in the local community. It provides an excellent service to the community and is of benefit to the area.”
Another said: “I feel that this service is a major asset to Torbay; its service provided to me was crucial to being re-homed and they also provided a great general care in my health and well-being.”
Now, Waugh has chosen to speak out about the devastating impact of Universal Credit despite threats from the Council and funders, because she thinks the public needs to know how dire the situation is for many people. Charities are not permitted to criticise government policies such as Universal Credit and may lose funding and aid as a consequence.
The charity were due what would have been their first grant from the Big Lottery Fund but Waugh said they were “screwed” after speaking out and would now probably receive nothing.
Trustee Shirley Holbrook said she was in the room when lottery official allegedly made the statement. She said: “She said categorically if we were to receive a big lottery grant we would be unable to speak out against Universal Credit or any other government measure that affected our clients adversely.
“We are not a political organisation. We speak out about homelessness because we deal with the results of it every day.” She said the main problem with Universal Credit was it was paid at the end of the month, while the old system saw claimants get cash at the beginning of the month.
Holbrook added that the charity has launched a crowdfunding page to make up for the money they have missed out on from the Big Lottery Fund. The charity helps up to three hundred people per week and is run by Waugh and another full-time member of staff with a team of 17 volunteers.
A spokesperson for Big Lottery Fund said it funded Humanity Torbay £10,000 in July 2017 which was announced as part of its publicly disclosed funding announcement. They said it was actively working with them on their further application for £130k and no decision has been yet made on this.
The spokesperson added: “It is incorrect to suggest we would withhold funding from any organisation on the basis of what they say publicly on social issues. We fund thousands of projects that are run by organisations that, in the course of their other activities, may also campaign on a range of topics or issues. “While we are clear – and it’s our stated policy – that our funding cannot be directly used for such activity, we do not prevent any grant holder from voicing their views on an issue that is important to them, their organisation or community.”
This is one of Waugh’s online accounts of the desperation, harm and utter destruction of people’s lives that Universal Credit is inflicting on increasing numbers. She regularly posts videos online in which she talks about the impacts of the controversial new benefits system on the homeless.
Ellie Waugh speaking out: “It’s absolutely awful out there”.
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