UK charity slammed for long-running management failures
30 September 2019 at 4:08 pm
Trustees of a UK housing charity have come under fire for failing to report the death of a resident and receiving unauthorised payments.
The UK Charity Commission has sanctioned and heavily criticised Bristol Sheltered Accommodation and Support (BSAS) for long-running management failings.
BSAS previously ran a hostel for homeless people, Wick House, where five residents have died since 2014.
While a recent inquest into the death of one of the residents did not find the charity responsible, the Charity Commission said former trustees failed to report the deaths of residents to the regulator.
The investigation also uncovered £48,000 (A$88,000) in unauthorised salary payments which were made to two trustees between 2012 and 2015.
Amy Spiller, the head of investigations at the commission, said it was clear the charity was mismanaged over a long period of time, and that its trustees repeatedly disregarded regulatory advice.
“All charities should be managed with care and probity, and residents of Wick House and their families have been let down. We have held the charity to account for these failings,” Spiller said.
“The public expect charities that work with vulnerable people to demonstrate that the protection and welfare of their beneficiaries is a priority… We are critical of their failures in this respect. All trustees, of all charities must uphold basic standards of conduct.”
The commission has issued BSAS with an official warning and two of the charity’s former trustees have signed voluntary undertakings not to serve as trustees over the next four and five years respectively.
Two new trustees were appointed in March 2019 and have been cooperating with the commission.
The commission also expressed wider concerns around the regulation of supported housing, which limits the commission’s ability to hold charities providing accommodation to account.
Sarah Atkinson, the commission’s director of policy, said people living in settings such as Wick House should have confidence in the support they get.
“We are concerned that, at the moment, the lack of agreed standards… and regulatory oversight… means that neither the public, nor we as the regulator, can confidently hold a charity offering this type of accommodation to account,” Atkinson said.
“This represents a problem not just for residents and their families, but also for public trust in charities that are associated in the public mind with care and support for vulnerable people.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for BSAS said the investigation had prompted major changes and improvements in the running of the charity.
“We are thankful to the commission for their recommendations and that they have allowed the charity to continue doing the work of housing homeless people with support needs,” they said.
“We take note of their summary of events and will make certain that the inadequacies that have been highlighted have been carefully addressed both now and in the future.”