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New Charity Watchdog Bites in UK

8 October 2015 at 9:46 am
Ellie Cooper
The UK Government has begun a crackdown on unethical charity fundraising and established a controversial new watchdog with regulatory “bite”.

Ellie Cooper | 8 October 2015 at 9:46 am


New Charity Watchdog Bites in UK
8 October 2015 at 9:46 am

The UK Government has begun a crackdown on unethical charity fundraising and established a controversial new watchdog with regulatory “bite”.

The UK’s Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said there were no more excuses for unethical charity fundraisers as he announced new rules to protect vulnerable people.

Under the controversial changes, the UK Government said if large charities failed to appropriately safeguard their supporters in any way the Government would have new powers to intervene and regulate charity fundraising and the new watchdog would require charities to have the explicit consent of all donors, past and present, before any data could be shared.

Wilson said the new watchdog would be funded by the charities themselves and would be tasked with setting standards for the Code of Fundraising Practice.

“Some fundraisers working on behalf of Britain’s biggest charities have been found ducking codes of good practice and putting vulnerable donors at risk,” Wilson said in announcing the new rules.

“The new fundraising watchdog will make sure large charities adhere to a strict code of good practice, which includes protecting the identity of those who give them donations. Anyone who is inundated with fundraising marketing material from charities will be able to press ‘reset’ and stop receiving this material.

“Income from individuals is the biggest single source of income for the voluntary sector, at £18.8 billion of the sector’s £40.5 billion annual income. These new measures are intended to increase trust in charities and further strengthen charitable giving.

“Charitable giving is one of the most decent and generous attributes of a civilised society – and we need to rebuild people’s faith in the big charities. Those who give to charity should know their donation is going to further a worthy cause and this trust will never be abused.

“We are building a new regulatory structure to make sure the right safeguards exist to protect those people at risk of exploitation. This should help the charities to draw a line under previous bad practice and I hope we will see even more people making donations and giving their time to help others in the months and years ahead.”

Wilson said the new powers would build on the recent review of charity fundraising by Sir Stuart Etherington and would further bolster changes in the Charities Bill that give the UK Charity Commission more teeth to tackle abuse.

The Etherington review published a report into charity fundraising in September. The review concluded that a new beefed-up fundraising self-regulator was needed to set standards and to refer persistent offenders or refer serious failures which raise concerns about breach of trustee duties to the Charity Commission or data concerns to the Information Commissioner.

The UK Government has accepted all the recommendations laid out in the Etherington Review and is supportive of the Fundraising Preference Service.

“(Already) the Fundraising code has been strengthened to protect vulnerable people by banning charities from selling individual’s data to a third party and ensuring all fundraising calls from agencies and call centres will be made from an identifiable number,” the Government said.

Amendments to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, are currently in the UK Parliament,and will require charity trustees of large charities (more than £1 million) to be more accountable and transparent about their fundraising by reporting details in their annual reports, including whether agencies are used and how the public and vulnerable people are protected from undue pressure and poor practice.

It also requires all charities to have more detail in contracts with fundraising agencies including how the public and vulnerable people are to be protected from undue pressure and poor practices and how the charity will monitor the fundraising agency.

In September 2015, 17 of the largest fundraising charities, including the British Red Cross, the NSPCC, Oxfam and Macmillan Cancer Support pledged in The Times to introduce an “opt in” system, banning them from passing on details of their donors to other ­charities without the individual’s express permission.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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