Why don’t charities sing their own praises?

Over the past few days my friends have been forwarding me articles about Devon County Council’s proposed 100% funding cut to ADVA, the domestic violence service in Devon. This is because people know that I’m interested in domestic violence and I worry about the funding for the sector.

But so far, the articles about ADVA have only irritated me. They’ve talked about how awful it will be for victims of domestic violence without ADVA, but without mentioning how effective ADVA is, or what it actually achieves. Having researched the domestic violence sector for NPC’s report on the issue, Hard knock life, I know there’s a wide spectrum of effectiveness for those charities helping victims of domestic violence (as there is in most charitable sectors). So, to make up my mind about whether or not I cared about ADVA’s funding crisis I spent a few minutes googling.

ADVA has been lauded by the Audit Commission for its work—it helps victims go through the court process so that overall prosecution and conviction rates for domestic violence have increased. Last year 90% of prosecutions brought in one of the specialist domestic violence courts in Devon were successful. Victims supported by ADVA’s independent advisors are less likely to suffer repeated violence than the average for the South West or England. There are also testimonials on ADVA’s website from experts in the sector such as Diana Barran of CAADA (one of NPC’s examples of effectiveness). I think we can be confident that if ADVA goes it will be a loss to the domestic violence sector as well as to victims of domestic violence in Devon.

But annoyingly this evidence of effectiveness is not presented in news articles about the cuts. Instead they present anecdotes  rather than proper evidence of the good work that ADVA does day in and day out. Even the Guardian Cuts Blog says that the Audit Commission viewed it as effective, but then goes on to talk about claims that the consequences of losing this funding will be that ‘Children learn abusive behaviour so consequently can become abusers of the future’, something which is possibly true, but a few steps removed and pretty hard to prove. ADVA itself doesn’t seem to do a very good job of showing off about its work and getting the news out there about what it achieves.

The cuts are coming. Today we’ve had the warning from charities that 250 Sure Start centres could close within a year.  We need to make sure that good services are protected. Services like ADVA who have evidence of effectiveness need to be talking about the real difference they make, and the difference that its users will see if they’re not around.