Charity Matters Dec 2016 Jan 2017 ISSUE 70. Thank you for your continued support, you can find more articles on eZinematters.com

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Charitymatters

Charity Matters is a free eZine, published every two months, which we think you will find a useful and informative resource.
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LETTING THE SECTOR DOWN
The warning of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) that charities risked becoming a dirty word has gained substance after the ICO found that the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation were paying investigators to snoop on donors to discover the extent of their wealth and assess how much might come to the charities in the donor's wills. The two charities were also found to be sharing donor's data with other organisations, putting them at risk of fraud.

For these breaches of the data protection laws the RSPCA has been fined £25,000 and the British Heart Foundation £18,000, amounts the ICO said were just a small fraction of the £250,000 each charity could have been fined. It said that the small fines were "for the sake of the donors".

There is a view that the penalties could "open the floodgates" for thousands of donors to sue the RSPCA and British Heart Foundation for misuse of their private information, a process they were not made aware of., nor one they could object to or contest.

The ICO is currently investigating other charities to detect breaches of data law.

 

LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS
Age UK have revealed that nearly a million elderly 60+ people will suffer chronic loneliness this festive season while most other folk are opening presents, spending pleasurable time with family and/or friends and tucking into the turkey and mince pies.

Worst affected say the charity are the unmarried, divorced and those who have lost their partner. For these Christmas is just a "thoroughly depressing reminder of just how lonely and miserable they feel all year round".

Age UK's campaign "No-one should have no-one" is being fronted by actors James Bolam and Miriam Margolyes who tell the stories of two recipients of the charity's telephone befriending service which generates a weekly phone call to elderly and lonely people living on their own.

 

CARE HOMES PROBE
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) are now carrying out an investigation into care homes.

This follows complaints of unfair treatment of families with relatives in care by the homes, which includes sudden price increases, "top up payments", "management fees" of up to £2,000 and extra charges of up to £10,000 for those paying their own fees rather than having them paid by a council.

Some families have been deterred from complaining to their care home after some elderly patients have been evicted in revenge, the reason CMA will now put a proper and fair complaints procedure in place.

 

AID COMPANY CONCOCTS TESTIMONIALS
A major player in the charitable distribution of hundreds of millions of pounds worth of foreign aid supplied by the Department for International Development has been caught using concocted testimonials from its staff to influence a Parliamentary inquiry into its performance.

Peter Young, director of strategy of Adam Smith International (ASI) briefed his staff on how to write glowing testimonials that sounded genuine, advising them that "it would not be plausible for an illiterate farmer to write a long note in perfect written English" and to have different members of staff "write individual submissions in each case, otherwise it will look too suspicious" One member of ASI staff responded that "The challenge has been in ensuring the two sound sufficiently different while conveying the main points Peter outlined".

Young has refused to reveal his total income from ASI but it is known he paid himself, in one year, a dividend of £800,000 and that profits at ASI after tax were £14.3 million in 2014.

 

IT'S A MIXED UP WORLD
The number of children calling NSPCC charity Childline about gender identity has tripled in the last three years, to 2796 in the year to March 2016.

Most were aged 12 - 15 but the charity also counselled 260 11-year-olds. Childline say that main issues discussed with "trans" children were the mental health problems of feeling "trapped in the wrong body", and suicidal thoughts, caused by cruel abuse and homophobic bullying.

 

FRAUDSTER SPARED JAIL
A woman who fraudulently claimed money from the Cumbria Community Foundation charity has been given a suspended sentence.

Nicola Moore, 33, claimed for flood damage to her own goods, as well as for furniture that belonged to her landlord, not to her, after last years Storm Desmond. Having received £1,250 she then put in a second claim, which included the same items of her landlord's.

Moore received an 18-month prison term suspended for two years, a 250-hour Community Service Order and was ordered to pay back £350 to the charity.

 

COPYING THE CORPORATES
It is a pity someone at the otherwise excellent Art Fund has decided the charity will behave like a big, bad company and suggest donors pay for its mistakes.

One gentle editor of a charity publication we know fell foul of this bad thinking when he gladly took out an annual direct debit subscription to the excellent Art Card, giving him valuable free entry to a number of highly-regarded art galleries, and discounts from many others. Sadly the Art Fund then wrote claiming that his bank had "declined the transaction" and suggesting that he either fund the amount, around £80, some other way or send the card back explaining why he had cancelled it. (he hadn't) There was also the suggestion that he could phone an 0844 number to discuss other options.

Although not stated on the letter the BT operator advised him that this option would cost him 11 pence a minute so he then spent around 50 pence to call it up and be told, without apology and with a refusal to call him back, that there had been a mistake and he should ignore the letter as another one explaining everything was on its way.

Sure enough, after eight days the promised second letter arrived explaining that the error was all the charity's as they had not set up his instruction with his bank resulting in the request for money understandably being declined.

The point of all this admittedly small beer is that it is invidious to ask customers/donors to phone a premium-rate number and pay anything to sort out your mistakes. And it does nothing for the increasingly poor image of the charity sector, which could be setting others good examples of how to behave.

 

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Charity Matters is a free eZine, published every two months, which we think you will find a useful and informative resource. It is distributed monthly to approximately 22,000 selected charities based throughout the UK and is designed to help keep you abreast of issues of potential interest.

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Peter Cotterell
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