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Christmas time, mistletoe and whining

Picture the scene: You’ve just finished your second helping of Christmas pudding and you’re unbuttoning your jeans. The conversation has moved from discussing that classic Band Aid Christmas song, to charity starting at home. You’d much rather be dozing on the sofa than defending the progress you know aid has made. But how do you do it without ruining the merry atmosphere?

We’re here to help.

Firstly, it’s not about shutting down the conversation. Our family and friends have legitimate concerns about where their money is spent, and rightly so. In fact, it is unfair to call this whining (we just can’t stop ourselves from punning in the run up to Christmas Jumper Day). If we want to change people’s minds about aid and development, we need get to the core of why they are sceptical. Belittling or dismissing fears won’t help us do that.

Why does defending UK aid matter?

UK aid has already done so much to change the lives of the world’s poorest children – and that means you have, too. British aid has educated 11 million children in the last five years. The UK’s investment in immunisation in the same period ensured 67.1 million children were protected against preventable diseases. That’s more than the population of the UK.

This year, the Department for International Development announced a plan to increase investment in family planning by 25% meaning 120 million more women and girls will be able to access contraception by 2020, giving them the power to plan their lives.

In spite of this amazing progress, aid is increasingly under attack from both the national press and backbench politicians. In this climate, it is not a given that our life-saving commitment to spend 0.7% of our national income on international aid is secure.

Why do we need to do this at Christmas?

News stories about aid have grown exponentially in the last few years and tend to spike around or just before the holidays.

And research from the Charity Commission in 2016 revealed that media stories about charities are by far the biggest driver of mistrust.

Insight from Daily Mail readers, reported by Humankind Research, suggests that we can’t just fight people’s concerns by bombarding them with facts and figures. Instead, we should respond to their feelings. Scepticism about aid and development is driven by an emotional disconnection between us as tax payers and the people our UK aid helps. It is our job to help close this gap – and as Humankind research says, heart trumps head in this instance.

We also know that evidence of aid’s impact is the most convincing argument, while claiming that “aid is in the national interest” is the least convincing. People are most confident in supporting aid when it makes them proud to be British. At nearly 100 years old, Save the Children has been part of British life for a century and we are proud to be part of that long tradition of helping save and change lives, for no other reason than children need our help and our country is strong and generous enough to give it.

What happens next?

We’re encouraging you to have these conversations with your family this Christmas because we know UK aid is saving lives all around the world. But this doesn’t mean it can’t improve – or it shouldn’t be scrutinised. To do this meaningfully, we want to move the conversation away from ‘should we spend aid?’ to ‘how do we best spend it?’. The Next Generation Aid report sets out our vision for the latter.

Below are just two examples of responses you could use, but if you’d like to know more please email


“Isn’t a lot of aid wasted?”

UK aid makes a huge difference to lives of people around the world, including women like Gladis. When Gladis had her first child she had to travel two hours to reach a facility with trained staff. Thanks to funding from UK aid, when Gladis went into labour a second time, she was taken by a motorbike ambulance, to a Save the Children supported facility nearer to her home. Save the Children supported the training of the health worker who delivered Gladis’ baby safely, despite some complications. Gabriel, the health worker told us, “If this had been a home delivery or if we didn’t have this essential equipment, the baby would have died.”

“If aid works, why are we still giving it?”

UK aid is helping put children, like Thep, back in the classroom after their education has been disrupted by fighting and food shortages in South Sudan.

Thep says, “Sometimes I am absent [from school] for three or four days because of the hunger. If there was enough food then I would be able to understand more of what the teachers were telling me. I want to go to school so that I can help my family have a better life.” Investment in children like Thep is one of the best investments we can make.

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