The minister for the third sector has told PRWeek that charities should be 'celebrated not criticised' for their campaigning efforts, because campaigns could save and change lives.
In an exclusive interview, Angela Smith asserted: 'Campaigning is central to the work of charities and helps create a strong and independent third sector.'
Smith's comments come just weeks after the Conservative Party manifesto author Oliver Letwin said at an NCVO conference in January that he regretted how much effort the third sector devoted to campaigning.
'They are free to do it, but what I treasure about the sector isn't its campaigning role,' he told delegates.
Smith, who is based in the Cabinet Office, rejected these views: 'We need to be celebrating a charity's independent voice rather than criticising it for focusing on campaigning. Time and time again, campaigns have proven to change and save lives. Just look at the transformational effect of the Make Poverty History campaign.'
She added: 'Campaigning by charities is hugely important and effective and the benefits of individual charity campaigns are enormous. A charity can provide a service that helps a few people, and can also generate public debate, change attitudes and even get a change in policy.'
The minister's comments will reassure charity PROs that legitimate campaigning, that does not turn party-political, is an important part of charitiy activity. Charities are being warned by the Charity Commission to adhere to its campaigning guidance during the upcoming election.
Her comments also come amid fears that charities will lose their independence as they take on a growing number of public service delivery contracts.
'The role of campaigning needs to be stepped up as the voice of charities will help form and shape policies that affect us all,' said Smith.