Trouble at the RSPCA, BBC Panorama Program

Average Reading Time: 17 mins

On Thursday 3rd of August the Beeb, shown a program – Panorama – Trouble at the RSPCA – this program was advertised showing issues with ‘being heavy-handed by prosecuting them and taking away their animals” also within the 30 min program was shown ex-staff of the RSPCA and ex-staff of the Charity Commission.

To go into detail the program shown three examples of people accusing the charity of being heavy handed with prosecutions – I have no doubt the RSPCA were correct to prosecute in all three cases! Since the program the RSPCA has released statements on each case – which the BBC should have sought prior to publishing the program and explained in better detail.

62 Cats in one house

62 Cats – don’t protect this persons feelings – that womans was a hoarder – if provided with advice by the RSPCA (where she used to work, so knows what it takes) and that was ignored then yes she should have been prosecuted to reduce those numbers down. The woman is now refusing to accept the court conviction and trying to claim against the RSPCA – a ridiculous notion which her solicitors should have advised against due to cost – even when she knows the RSPCA were advised by her VET1 of the situation! I play with my cat at least an hour a day and she has FIV and herpes, something some of those cats will have also had. All cats should be monitored for temp, weight, toilet habits and how much she is eating, as they don’t show signs of distress as easily as other animals – this couldn’t be done with SIXTY TWO of them along with other animals too!

Yaay maths time; let’s say you needed to spend just 10mins with each cat a day (be that grooming on a monday, weighing on a tues, claw clipping wed etc) thats 10.5 HOURS A DAY!!! That doesn’t even include feeding or litter cleaning and 10mins per day doing anything with a cat is not really enough, not to mention she had other “pets” too! Articles also state “She doesn’t have the inclination or the means to inoculate them”2 so the cats didn’t even have the needed vaccinations to protect them from the virus prevalent in the house!

The show implied it was just her and there were no others in the house with her to spread the tasks to, nor did the show or any other media advise of any paid help either. So unless this woman is some form of McFly then an average person wouldn’t be able to provide a suitable domestic environment. What if they were allowed out too, it makes no comment if they were house cats – how could you do any tasks needed and monitor 62 cats you didn’t even know if they’d been in the house, advertising as a ‘sanctuary’ you’d like to think they weren’t roaming the streets!!!

This is a clean cut case! Hoarding to the point of Cruelty is still Cruelty, regardless of intentions!

Essentially what Panorama have done here is provide validity to people who have abused animals to say – i’m allowed to and shouldn’t be stopped. The BBC should not have allowed the program to air.

Trustees

too many allegations are thrown his way and I agree the governance doesn’t sound correct! He should step down to protect the charity from further disrepute coming from his involvement

Governance

changes since the 70s but only after charity had correclty gone through a governace review 34

Barristers – known people who have protected animal abusers – why the hell would the RSPCA not make complaints about someone who is supposed to have a moral requirement to uphold the law and the law is the Animal Welfare Act.

ex-CE of the Charity Commission involved in the show is not appropriate and not acceptable that a person in such a position involves themselves regarding a specific charity – along with putting their names to a program which tried to make animal abusers seem like they’re disadvantaged by prosecution.

Heavy handed with prosecutions – no chance – 1 in 200 prosecuted is nowhere near enough! Don’t be ridiculous!

 

Sensitisation is poor reporting! This is clear from the advert directly after the program asking “Is it possible that a pill prescribed by your doctor can turn you into a killer?” – this question is clearly worded in a manner not suited to unbiased publishing and is the TV version of Clickbait! Its well known Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors remove some emotion, obviously, their main aim is to reduce depression and work by stopping serotonin from being reabsorbed – so it builds up within the body rather than being removed by the body. One of the most prescribed medications in america Prozac is an SSSI medication. Medication does not make people kill, medication removes the depression which held them back from killing and increases their emotional state and motivation to do what makes them happy, sadly some people are psychopaths – you cannot blame the medication but the services that went with it, anyone on high doses of medication or with severe depression should be receiving frequent therapy to guide them and make certain they’re not going down dangerous paths (even then most people who have a want to murder don’t go telling people about it!)  The author of this received much backlash on Twitter, and rightfully so – Correlation does not mean Causation – every journalist should have this tattooed on their wrist.

Transcript of the Program - Click Here

Tonight the animal owners who claimed that one of our best loved charities is being too hard on them. It is the way they handle things. It is their away or the highway. The British public backs the RSPCA to prosecute animal cruelty, but does it always get it right? To be told I was mistreating birds of prey has left me feeling absolutely broken. And is the charity so determined to succeed it ignores the human cost? It went on for years and years, and it ground me down. I still feel injured. Former RSPCA insiders worry there is chaos at the top. I personally think that the RSPCA commentary is not fit for purpose.

We ask is the world’s oldest animal charity doing its best to keep public trust? We love our animals. My dog is called Bertie. Shall we go for a run? He is going to be my sidekick on this investigation. Or is it the other way around? Where is the stick, Bertie? He’s half toy poodle and half whippet, so he will keep me on my toes. Sometimes… It feels like he’s the master and I’m the dog. Woofety woof woof woof. Some animals don’t get love and affection like Bertie. That is why we need the RSPCA. The RSPCA has a full-scale rescue service…

It has been standing up for animals since 1824. The RSPCA gets more than 100 million per year in donations and legacies. Its inspectors see some extremely distressing sights. From stray dogs shown in this campaign video, outright cruelty. All of these dogs, filmed by an inspector, died. Many of them are in rigor mortis already. The RSPCA prosecuted the dog breeders who did this. They didn’t go to jail but were banned for life from owning dogs. The charity’s most powerful weapon in protecting animals is bringing private prosecutions. But some animal owners complain it is being too heavy-handed. This is the RSPCA headquarters here in Sussex. Critics say the charity has long been too quick to prosecute animal owners and too aggressive. Three years ago in independent report took the charity to task over the way it prosecutes people. How much has changed?

Good morning. This is Bertie. Hello, Bertie. Steve Rainton has been displaying birds of prey for 20 years. He is now helped by his partner, Natalie. Amazing, we’ve had her for five years. Stand well back… Last year Steve and Natalie faced getting criminal records when they were prosecuted by the RSPCA. Good girl. Steve said it all started when somebody he knew took four birds from his farm. Worried the rest of the birds were at risk Steve took them home in cages for temporary safekeeping and rang the RSPCA. Originally we asked the RSPCA for some help. Where we were keeping the birds wasn’t safe and we needed somewhere else to keep the birds. What Steve didn’t know was that the RSPCA had received a complaint about him mistreating the birds. When inspectors called at his home he let them in. He wished he hadn’t. Once they were in they started taking photographs, you know, trying to gather evidence against me. And that’s the way I felt bullied by the RSPCA. RSPCA inspectors do not have powers of seizure, so they called the police who took Steve’s birds away. Steve was charged by the RSPCA with eight animal welfare offences. Natalie, who does not own the birds, also faced eight charges. They used my partner. They basically said they would drop all charges against my partner if I took the rap, basically. I’d never broken the law. I’ve never been in trouble. To be told I was mistreating birds of prey, it just left me feeling… Absolutely broken. Earlier this year magistrates cleared Steve and Natalie of two charges. The other 14 were dismissed. The RSPCA says it is because of police mistakes. The whole thing of them being there to help you, in my case, wasn’t the case. Up until the day they knocked on my front door while we saw them as a good charity. The RSPCA said it acted properly and lawfully throughout. There was sufficient evidence. And that it was in the public interest.

It says it prosecuted around 800 people last year, down by 50% in four years. If an RSPCA inspector investigates a complaint of cruelty, that person has less than one chance in 200 of being prosecuted. Certainly not trigger-happy. Most of it is now dealt with by way of advisory notices and warnings. In fact most of it is dealt with by a reasonable conversation on the doorstep. Giving reasonable advice. Reasonable people take reasonable advice. The RSPCA and its inspectors do good work. No question. And criticising a much loved animal charity may not make me popular. But what can happen to an animal owner if there is no reasonable conversation on the doorstep? If no advice is given?

Gwyn Protheroe farms over 5000 sheep in mid Wales. These sheepdogs are working animals. Without them he cannot do his job. Last year the RSPCA prosecuted Gwyn following the death of one of his dogs. She was a working dog. It’s not clear why she died. But she was thin and had been a small dog from birth. From the vet’s report and postmortem done by the RSPCA they found a problem with her liver and her heart. The dog lay unburied for two days. She died while Gwyn was working 60 miles away. An RSPCA inspector called the police, who removed the dead dog and two of the sheepdogs. The RSPCA said he hadn’t done enough to prevent the death and that living conditions were poor. He was charged with three animal welfare offences. It’s the way they handled things, you know? It is their way or the highway, basically, you know? The case took a year to come to court and had a big effect on the family. What was it like when he was charged? Scary. It wasn’t a nice feeling. I felt really bad for dad because he isn’t a bad person. He didn’t really, like, deserve it. What did you say to them? That it would all be all right? Which it was proved, wasn’t it? I’m sorry… A judge dismissed the case, saying Gwyn has considerable expertise as an animal owner and acted reasonably. How did you feel when that verdict came through not guilty on all counts? Relieved. A sense of justice. Because he was cleared the dogs should have been returned. But, extraordinary as it seems, they were not. RSPCA staff asked if they could keep the dogs and re-homed them. I got a phone call, she asked the question again, the people in the kennels have got attached to the dogs. The RSPCA said it kept hold of the dogs while it considered to appeal. It would be two months before they found out if they would get their dogs back. I couldn’t work out why they wanted to keep, again, prolonging the process of us getting the dogs back. You keep thinking everything is coming to a close. But it was like they were ripping the wound open again. The RSPCA says it was right to prosecute. And while some cases don’t succeed 92.5% of its prosecutions are successful.

There is very, very rigorous process by which the evidence is checked to make sure we meet the evidential test. We get the experts in, we depend on an independent veterinary opinion as to the degree of suffering. Once the matter goes to court it is for the magistrate to convict or acquit. Fighting animal cruelty is important but has the RSPCA sometimes gone too far? Barrister Jonathan Rich stopped defending RSPCA cases nine years ago. I gained a firm impression that I was really being personally targeted. It reached a stage where my involvement in cases was actually not helping my clients, because they would throw significant resources at any case in which I was involved. He also faced a number of professional misconduct complaints linked to animal welfare cases. Two from the RSPCA. I have seen a lot of the rough and tumble of the bar. But this was in an entirely different league. And it went on for years and years and years, and it ground me down. I still feel today, I still feel injured. None of the complaints succeeded. One from the RSPCA took eight years to be fully resolved. I got pretty low. I was treated for depression. I’m not embarrassed to say that. Do you still defend animal cases? If the RSPCA are involved I will not be appearing as an advocate. Which is a great shame, given the expertise I believe I brought. Barrister Sara-Lise Howe believes she has been singled out, too. She says the CPS was warned she wanted to undermine RSPCA private prosecutions. I have no doubt that they have been targeting me. I was 16 years in court, I’d never had these accusations. Just trying to represent my client. To get the court to look at the law. The RSPCA says the criticism to the CPS about Sara-Lise Howe was made in error and nnot at their request. It respects and upholds the vital role played by defence lawyers in testing the prosecution’s case. For the RSPCA to do its job properly it must be well run.

This June the Chief Executive Jeremy Cooper resigned. The second to do so in three years. Trouble at the top should be a worry for any charity. If I am a donor I want to know my money is going to be well spent. And the chances are significantly higher that my money as a donor is going to be well spent if the charity is well governed, well led, sound decisions are made. The RSPCA staff are overseen by 25 unpaid trustee is called the council. They are supposed to keep an eye on things, not run the show.

One of the key rules, really, is that trustees in a large charity shouldn’t really dabble in operational matters. That is for paid staff. But we’ve discovered that’s what’s been going on at the RSPCA. Chris Lawrence used to be the charity’s chief vet before he became a trustee. The RSPCA are essentially is a great organisation. Fantastic staff who work incredibly hard. But you come to a point where you have to say enough is enough, I can’t any longer support the way this is happening. I had real concerns about the way the RSPCA was being run at council level. He’s never spoken publicly about leaving the charity he loves. The Council found it really difficult to properly delegate. What does that mean? It means almost micromanagement. Chris Laurence resigned as a trustee last year. His fellow trustee, David Canavan, is still there. The RSPCA spends £50 million a year responding to complaints from the general public about abuse of animals. He’s speaking to MPs about fundraising. The two years, the RSPCA allowed him and another trustee to run the charity unpaid, while it was without a chief executive. For any charity, doing both jobs at the same time, for such a long time, would be a no-no. For a large charity, that is off the bscale, in terms of being so unusual. I find it difficult to see how a large charity could properly run itself if it doesn’t have a permanent chief executive who is independent from the nonexecutive trustee team. This is the Manchester Animal Hospital, the RSPCA’s busiest. It provides extremely subsidised neutering, micro-chipping, vaccinations, to quite a poor -ish area within Manchester. Three years ago, Steve Carter was asked to look at redistributing some of its vet services to branches across the North of England. Among them, Rochdale, 16 miles away. It was a branch that struggled financially. It tried to do the best it could, but it overextended itself. Steve Carter says getting more vet services could have helped Rochdale’s finances and says David Canavan was keen on the move. At the time, he was also an unpaid trustee of the Rochdale branch. That’s a conflict-of-interest, isn’t it? I believe it is. I made it very clear to trustees and two senior management that this was not a decision I could support in any way, shape or form. Steve feared it could have meant closure for the Manchester Animal Hospital. I did not want to see that provision deteriorate in any shape or form. That was one of the main reasons that I decided I had to leave the RSPCA. The RSPCA says it did discuss its Northern operations. No changes were made and there was never any suggestion the Manchester hospital would close. It says there was no improper interference by David Canavan and as acting chief executive he oversaw a period of stability and sound management.

Brighton, a stone’s throw from RSPCA HQ. We’ve been told that what happened here reveals more cracks behind the scenes. Nationally, the RSPCA has a policy against anyone importing dogs for commercial purposes. But here in Brighton, the local branch was re-homed scores of dogs from Spain and Portugal in apparent conflict with that policy. Around 150 dogs over three years were imported by another animal welfare organisation, and brought to these RSPCA kennels. They were then re-homed. The Brighton branch had lots of British Staffies, which are hard to home, and was keen to offer a mix of breeds. The RSPCA said the dogs were not being imported for commercial purposes. The RSPCA told us the Brighton branch didn’t profit from re-homing these animals, but we found out the issue did worry some staff. They couldn’t support others transporting animals hundreds of miles across Europe, when there were plenty of British dogs to help at home. Trustee David Canavan got involved in 2014. At the time he was also effectively running the charity. We understand that David Canavan told the branch that so long as 40% of the dogs in my kennels were brought to them by inspectors, they could fill the remaining space is how they wanted, providing the trustees and legal department didn’t object. The RSPCA said any suggestion David Canavan acted contrary to its policies is completely untrue. He referred the matter to the Chief Vet and the RSPCA revised its policy, so the branch had to get permission on a case-by-case basis. It says the branch was trying to help as many unwanted dogs as it could, and its main focus remains local animals. At the top is the RSPCA a smoothly running organisation? I personally think that the RSPCA, currently, is not fit for purpose. I think it stems from the background of counsel. I don’t think the government process and structure has moved on much since the 1970s. Wipe-out this is the headquarters of the Charity Commission, it’s the body charged with making sure our charities are up to snuff. It told Panorama that the RSPCA’s governance is below the standard it would expect from a modern charity. It is monitoring the trustees’ role in leading change will consider regulatory action if the required improvements aren’t made quickly enough. The RSPCA says its trustees are working with the Charity Commission to implement the recommendations of a recent independent review. The RSPCA has its own reform agenda.

It wants for more powers to investigate, so it has to rely less on the police. Its supporters say only the charity has the necessary expertise and resources to prosecute. Critics argue it should be left to the police. The type of cruelty that the public disapproves of is obvious. It doesn’t require a specialist organisation to prosecute. I’m on my way to see one of Sara-Lise Howe’s clients. Sarah Mellanby lost her appeal against conviction for seven animal welfare offences earlier this year. That some of my cats there. That’s Leonard and Elmo. Puff Daddy, Thomas O’Malley and that’s Hubert. Sarah used to a large home to shelter unwanted cats. So who have we got here? That is Lionel Blair. LAUGHTER I know, super hair. Dennis the Menace, Charles Worthington. Some people would say looking at this that you are a mad cat lady. Yes,

they probably would. Are you a mad cat lady? Guests. Where are your cats? I don’t have any. Four years ago she had more than 60. You had 60 cats, 62 cats. Isn’t that a bit crazy? Well, I’m too soft, I’m just too soft. They were unwanted cats and I was homing them. Some of the cats she took and had cat flu, which is contagious and can be nasty. I kept them and kept them comfortable. It’s not good, but they were alive, they were as well as they could be. The RSPCA, which made repeated visits, disagreed. It says some were emaciated, as well as cat flu others had problems with their eyes and teeth. And it says she failed to seek appropriate care from a vet. All her cats were removed and Sarah was tried and convicted. I think a lot of the people who have had problems with the RSPCA are people who would be described as vulnerable. The mad old lady who takes into many cats, they have got themselves into a mess for caring, because they care too much. I think that is a big difference from someone who delights in seeing an animal suffer. The RSPCA tried to help and advise Sarah. The appeal judge said she was deaf to that advice and the idea that the RSPCA were treating her harshly was not supported by the evidence. But he did reduce her sentence, so, after four years, 21 cats could come home.

A vet who supported Sarah throughout, is no fan of the RSPCA. What does somebody like Sarah do with cats that are left on her doorstep? Take those cats in or discard them, shut the door and leave them to die? What’s the options? Yes, we know that a lot of these cats were chronically infected with cat flu. They have been and they will remain that way. The RSPCA asked the court to make Sarah pay some of their costs. She now has a £100,000 charge on her home, to be paid to the RSPCA when she sells it.

My heart’s been broken. They’ve just warn me down and I’ve been depressed. They’re just like this giant machine that just crawls through people’s lives and they’ve got no way of getting out of it. The RSPCA says it prosecuted as a last resort. It was endorsed by the appeal judge and the Crown Prosecution Service. The costs were high because it took so long to conclude the case, and this was not the RSPCA’s fault. The RSPCA says it only prosecute when mistreatment is serious, cruelty blatant and when other ways to help animal and owner have been exhausted.

Back in Wales, the Protheroes are still waiting to hear if they’ll get their sheepdogs back. Three days after Panorama wrote to the RSPCA, the dogs were finally returned. Can one if you open the door while I left her in, please? Outside the Protheroes’ solicitors… It’s a big relief. It’s nice to see them. They’re looking OK, aren’t you? Hope they’ll be as happy to be home as we are to have them home. The RSPCA says the delay in returning the dogs was lawful and proper, while it decided whether to appeal. For many, including its critics, the

RSPCA remains a great British charity. I think the RSPCA is overall a force for good. The inspectors do good work every single day, there are out there in all conditions. Charity fight the RSPCA depend on more than donations, they also need public support. Public trust and public confidence in the work that charities do will only be sustained if charities are seen to be doing the right thing. That means behaving in a responsible, transparent and accountable way.

The RSPCA says it is committed to continually improving everything it does. But to its critics, it stands accused of being a charity that sometimes lacks charity – to humans.

 

The Problem with Online Petitions

Average Reading Time: 6 mins

Sign this to show your support, Stand with Joe bloggs, Be part of it, Support this cause, Stop this, Start that – we’ve all seen the ceaseless online petitions which vary greatly in their aims, professionalism and grace. Some are nearly as bad as the ‘type amen and share to send a prayer’ nonsense from social media, both which anger me greatly, but should I actually be wound up by them or furiously signing them as quick and plentiful as possible?

What are Online Petitions

Online petitions started as a simple way for users to digitally sign petitions, rather than in person, from clipboard carries or in local stores. The idea was that people would effectively be able to support the correct causes and sign against/for all items that directly affected them or causes they supported. They are provided (in the UK) by a multitude of businesses, charities, government and international subsidiaries.

The facilities, options, opinions of and benefits (to the user, signatory, owner and cases) differ greatly along with a disparity between demographic of users and opinions of the separate platforms.

Statistics

Most of the millions of e-petitions that get signed each year, then, fall on deaf ears and achieve very little. 6.4 million signatures per year just on the governments own petition.parliament.uk site2.

Indexed Pages Domain Links SEMRush FB Total3
avaaz.org 78700 326000 207838 57400
petition.parliament.uk 114000 324000 190332 22490
causes.com 674000 10500000 111063 10850000
thepetitionsite.com 395000 1480000 19818 110720
change.org 2450000 71900000 1552 1780000
home.38degrees.org.uk 7820 211000 324558 4600
thunderclap.it 326000 2100000 101991 9860

The Bad

Anyone can create a petition (just like the real world) however digitally it means any person without probity can create a petition for users to sign, without the intentions being vetted. Added to this there is a massive void between the professional and highly personal – the downside is a couple of glasses of wine and bad experience can result in a national campaign (some may see this as a benefit) but I feels more structured and wholesome campaign – with proper governance and planning – will always succeed if the cause is genuine.

This ease is great for this proper organisations and bodies who need the facilities and for fast moving situations like politics, but I’ve read far too many where the intentions are great but the poor application of the intentions have lessened the impact and possibly reduced the public perception of the campaign. While there are several petitions I’ve had to complain about after users have created them only from seeing incorrect spam on social media!  We’ve all seen the nonsense posts, but yes, some people believe them and then it’s probable more people will believe after they see a petition. While there are also several campaigns which are moot, the most recent is from May 20174, where the author is requesting Endometriosis is recognised under the Equality Act 2010 – now let me be clear, Endometriosis is a horrid thing to deal with and can cause many complications being both physically and mentally draining and i’m not lessening that at all – the Equality act covers Disability, which would include Endometriosis so this petition was not really needed. Although gathered 10,000 signatures some of who wouldn’t know about the condition, the post itself provides an incorrect view that the condition isn’t covered when it is, this sort of poor research leads to incorrect public views and it has the ability to damage a larger campaign.

The instant gratification achieved from online petitions in this way is immediately exhilarating, however the ease of signing means those signatures are not likely to want to do anymore to support the campaign. Clicking a button to help and actually getting off your ass are vastly different! This burnout after piqued interest on media – means support will dwindle after media saturation (which will vary by user and campaign) can this be a key to support for local issues? I feel only national issues should be utilised in online campaigns (even then only a small proportion of the nation will see the camping any platform not to mention media). – anything less than 10,000 signatures to me is not sufficient!

Dilution of issues due to duplicates and similar campaigning. A unified approach to issues is key, speaking from one page is necessary to fight an issue, multiple voices speaking from different aspects is not productive without an overall aim and management from a central aspect with an objective being key.

Desensitised to petitions as a whole, slacktivism (portmanteau of slacker and activism) is now rife, because of this there are far too many petitions being signed and shared, this means on average (being linked to several charities and connected to many charity focused people) I see at least 10 petitions a day show up on my social media, add that to the ones I get emailed to me by people who think i’d be interested in what they sign up for.  This causes me, and many others, to have petition blindness5.

Because of the above many organisations are now shying away and publically distancing themselves from online petitions 6– I’m make a difference between online petition and an organisations own online support request mechanism (osrm [p.s. I want this to be pronounced ‘awesome’]) 

Victories because of Petitions?

Its very doubtful7 From the table below we can see the number of petitions (only included is the government petition site) which shows more than 65% of the petitions are rejected, now some of these is becauase there already exists a similar petition, however it doesn’t take in number of signatures or profesionalism – so if you were to make a better worded, planned and executed petition the orgional would be kept and yours would be rejected. But have previous parliamentary petitions ever succeeded in implementing real change? I couldn’t find any evidence of it, the only changes were from campaigns which already had an organised following and subsidiary organisation pushing for the amendments it seems like a lot of the Petition sites take credit for already active campaigns. 

Total Petitions8 31,731
Rejected 20,781 65.4912%
Awaiting Response 12 0.0378%
Provided Response 475 1.4970%
Awaiting Debate 9 0.0284%
Debated in Parliament 56 0.1765%

“if you collect more than 100,000 signatures, your e-petition could be debated in the House of Commons” The above table shows just how many actually get debated, in TOTAL 56 have been debated since July 2015 when it started, this is less than 0.2%! Of the ten campaigns that garnered most signatures in 2016, four were denied a debate and none has so far succeeded in obtaining its intended outcome or implementing real change9. I agree with Emma Howard of The Guardian10 in that it creates false expectations although I would go further in saying it provides the people with a flawed beleif of impact.

The Good

Slacktivism is always seen as negative; lazy activism which no true desire to change society, an easy way to jump on the bandwagon or to agree easily without actually understanding what you’re agreeing with or against. However this can be of great benefit for those campaigns which are written effectively, it’s quite clear what you are signing and the aim of the campaign, with true motivation and belief slacktivism can, at its very least, provide a massive reach for ideas and issues without fiscal cost to a charity/cause.

The population of the UK is changing with each generation technology and social media become more integrated into their lives – I’m the last generation that didn’t have a mobile until very late teens, it’s now known how that will affect social issues in the future, but it is unlikely to reduce in numbers. People have embraced petitioning online whole heartly, some belive that it is a key method of expression be that Substantive or Protest11.

Some of the additional facilities provided by online petitions, when used properly, can aid a campaign no end, from automatically contacting your local MP/Councillor, to allowing you to email several friends and to share on other networks, all makes for ease and promotion.

Conclusion – Don’t stop!

No, I’m not asking for regulation or anything more formal, but maybe I think the petition sites using a method of promoting registered organisations or public figures (like mps) over the standard petitions, while also making certain petitions which have the same cause/aim being merged and those people being made to work together on the campaign.

Petitions only achievement is to promote a parliamentary debate – however the debate already exists in the public for the petition to be created (some smaller than others).

Parliament’s petitions are about demonstrating discontent and developing campaigns to address specific issues, as many other political tools are – Cristina Leston-Bandeira 12http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/what-is-the-point-of-petitions/13

Online petitions are the start, a tool and an easy marketing exercise for any campaign which needs support, they work when they’re done correctly. In the true slacktivist way, it’s just a click, you may as well!

Heavy Hand
Charges for Regulation by the Charity Commission or is there an alternative option?

Average Reading Time: 7 mins

In 2015 the Charity Commission head, Paula Sussex, advised there were talks ongoing regarding charging to keep the Regulator a float, while in March this year the treasury gave the all clear for the Charity Commission to formally look into the possibility of charges and costs.

This a very current and heated issue, which i’m still very conflicted with. On one hand I do very much agree with William Shawcross, believing the largest Charities should be contributing to the regulator to fund the costs of regulating the majority of smaller charities (that’s probably the socialist in me!) – but should it not come from public taxes?

As far as my opinion goes the Treasury already supports charities quite well with their Gift Aid Schemes and other tax benefits for registered Charities. While most would say any charge for regulation should go to those who benefit from regulation, but it cannot be that simple as you can’t really charge Homeless people or animals, rare trees, users of foodbanks, cancer patients, and the list goes on. One thing all charities have to have in common, by their very nature, is that they are to benefit the Public, mostly certain specific areas or selected groups of people but over all the benefit is to the public.

The problem with this is you can’t charge those people who are using the services, you can’t charge employees, you can’t really charge Trustees as they’re offering their governance for free and you don’t really want to increase taxes to the public (as that would result in public resentment and criticism of the Third Sector and political scapegoating of the industry too). This really only leaves the current government budget being increased from its current point which means budget will need to be gathered elsewhere (We’ll shy away from current party politics and fiscal policies for now). We’re left with the following options to gain some budget back to effectively regulate;

  1. Charities to pay
  2. Fines/Charges to charities
  3. Companies
  4. Gift Aid Scheme changes
  5. Match Funding
  6. Mixture of the above

CAVEAT: with my current experiences with the regulator I do not believe it is fit for purpose regardless of how much money you throw at it.

Lets look at some figures;

Charity CommissionCharities
  • An organisation which can spend £5000 on creation of a new logo; I’m all for marketing, but when the organisation is not achieving what it needs to and the main reason it provides is budget then this expenditure shows the core aim is not the true focus.
  • increased spending on agency staff, which almost tripled from £900,000 to just under £2.7m in 2015/16 which to me says their HR function is not appropriate either (now hiring new HR management as of 7.7.17)
  • The Charity Commissions own report said it hit 16 out of 17 of its internal targets – who created them – why has Parliament not set targets in line with Third Sector organisations requirements?
  • In 2015 there are around 2.5 organisation for every 1000 people 1 , I like that statistic as indicator, it provides a clearer view of just how many charities there are.

As of December 2016 78% of the revenue brought in by charities is received by the top 1.3% of charities (2201) organisations 2 , to make up the current funding for the Regulator at least to its current level (matching what they receive now)

Options

1. Charge Charities

Lets look at some options;

  1. Charge each of the top 1.3% of charities would need to be charged over £9,500 each – possible given their size but unfair to the beneficiaries of those specific organisations.
  2. Charge each charity evenly you’d need to charge each of the 167,109 around £125 each, much more reasonable but hardly fair that a £5000 per annum playgroup is charged the same as a £25m+ charity, but then again each charity is under the same regulatory requirements, oversight and authority.
  3. Charge on a graded scale so based upon income the below table shows charging each charity just £35 per year (appropriate to cost for administration of the charity status) and also fund the Regulator, while the largest 2000 charities would be £1500 per year, a small percentage of the >£5m per year incomes. This would provide the regulator with a few hundred thousand pounds more than their current budget
Annual income bracket Number of charities % Annual income £bn % Annual Charge* Total Annual Charge
 £0 to £10,000 65,842.00 39.4  £                                0.22 0.3  £                35.00  £               2,304,470.00
 £10,001 to £100,000  56,853.00 34  £                                2.01 2.7  £              100.00  £               5,685,300.00
 £100,001 to £500,000  21,956.00 13.1  £                                4.83 6.6  £              250.00  £               5,489,000.00
 £500,001 to £5,000,000  8,972.00 5.4  £                              13.41 18.4  £              500.00  £               4,486,000.00
 £5,000,000 plus  2,201.00 1.3  £                              52.65 72  £           1,500.00  £               3,301,500.00
 *My example of Charge Total  £             21,266,270.00

2. Fines/Charges

The current law requires charities to file their documents on time, and the burden is on the Trustees to do so, if you are not able to do so then you should not be signing up as a Trustee, I believe a fine for not filing your books is needed to encourage clear lines between the disorganised and the effective. Currently there has been an ongoing inquiry for those charities which have been late filing their books for more than two years, the cost of this inquiry will be massive, yet this could have been recouped if the charges were like other documents where the trustees directly are fined, not the charity! This will make certain the documents are provided on time and prioritised jointly by all trustees. A fine of either £100 in total split between the Trustees, or £50 each per Trustee should discourage ignorance of a legal requirement.

3. Charge / Tax Companies

The £2.1bn contribution of the FTSE100 companies in 2014 3, I couldn’t find any record of more current figures, but lets just use £2.1bn as an example – not forgetting this is just from the FTSE100 companies, not any other company than ones listed on the exchange – if just 0.02% of this had to go towards regulation it would bring in £42million to the regulator, this could again be easily enacted and would put administration of such matters on to the accounts teams of the FTSE100 which would be easily able to support this function. 

Some Charges/fines I think may appropriate to Charities themselves;

  • Application Fee – a set fee to process the application to register, this may be £10/20 only, but will add up and cover some costs
  • Authorisation Fees – to request authorisation to pay connected staff, or payment of Trustees or release of land for sale etc
  • Constitution changes – I think non default Constitutions should be charged to be reviewed correctly (although some of the default docs I think could be improved)
  • Late Accounts Fine – fine should be appropriate if the accounts have to be sent back to the charity as insufficient/inadequate
  • Missing info fine
  • Not updating Trustee info
  • Any other misgiving which relates to a requirement

4. Gift Aid Changes

In 2014/15 the UK government provided £1.19bn in gift aid to charities 4, this may be a cleaner option by providing say 24% gift aid rather than 25% the other 1% could fund the Regulator.

This would mean 4% of the £1.19bn going to the regulator, providing £47.6m to the regulator, which is a few million more in real terms of what they received a decade ago. The benefit of this is that its simple! Doesn’t add to the additional administration of the regulator and provides and appropriate and proportional income which would vary on the income of the sector.

Major Caveat: Charity Commission

Commissions current proficiency in respect of what is not only needed by charities but also what is needed by the beneficiaries of those charities does not seem to be inline. The commission currently has little open channels for the public to request help/support or advice while those charities which are abusing the law have little way of guaranteeing action and consequences to the abuse. If the commission is to continue without holding responsibility for prosecutions of those abusing charities then the funds must come from the commission’s budget and be passed to Crown Prosecution to action those needs. Very few people now believe the commission provides value for money or does what the law intended it to do. My own issues with an abused charity have taken over 3 years for the commission to open an inquiry. That is ridiculous that abuse can be ignored like that for such a period of time, regardless of what budget they have available, there are charities up and down the country struggling for funds and they manage to achieve much more!

Lets not forget this is just for England and Wales – Scotland and Ireland have their own regulator!

Public bodies like this do not usually lose their budgets without warning, nor without not showing theirs benefit themselves! The Charity Commission needs to stress, without reservation, the issues prevalent in the third sector to show why money is needed and why regulation is vital! As far is public knowledge the Commission has not delegated or partnered with other Charity organisations to support their workloads! One of the first things I would have done was make certain the day to day drivel from Mrs Jones and her WI meeting was passed over to an organisations like CVCs, those people who wanted hands on supporting advice should be passed to those local organisations created to do so!  The regulator should be concerned with regulatory matters and their litigation to protect the industry and the massive amounts of public funds which goes with it.

Conclusion

In the end Charities are there to mop up the errors and misgivings of parliament to protect the public interest, it should be the government which provides the needed funds to regulate and police the industry properly. Charity abuse is one of the most detested of all abuses and those volunteering for them of their own free time must also see some protection and guarantee that when issues are exposed they are corrected swiftly and those responsible are punished sufficiently, where necessary. Sadly the Commission is already funded by Taxes paid to the government by the people of the UK, if they’re then going to charge Charities too, who are doing the jobs which are only created by an inefficiency of government mechanisms then essentially people are being taxed twice as they will pay from their taxes and from their donations to the charities.

The main problem with other options is that the Commission cannot implement or control it and only the Government may say that its a more appropriate option. My expectation is that the commission will at some point advise that charges to each charity are going to be put into place, no matter how many disagree with cost being fulfilled in that way

Suggested Charity Books to Read

Average Reading Time: 2 mins

Just some of the books that you should be reading if you’re involved in a charity.

Book Description
Managing without Profit: Leadership, Management and Governance of Third Sector Organisations
Managing Without Profit – now in its fifteenth year of publication – has sold over 18,000 copies and been translated into three languages. Over the years this title has become the essential guide to leading, managing and governing nonprofit organisations. Distilling a vast amount of information into an easy-to-use guide, Managing Without Profit provides a practical overview for busy managers and board members who need to learn a lot in a short space of time. The new edition has been completely revised and updated, with new chapters on managing strategic partnerships and managing knowledge and new sections on winning work from the public sector and tracking corporate performance. It also includes many new case examples drawn directly from the author’s recent work. Mike Hudson is Director of Compass Partnership, a group of consultants that has been working exclusively with nonprofit organisations for 25 years.
Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success
GIVE AND TAKE presents the fascinating secrets to givers’ success. The results are unequivocal: givers gain big. Jack Welch, Richard Branson, Jon Huntsman Sr. – all of them are givers. In a world in which so many takers such as Bernard Madoff and Raj Rajaratnam have ruined lives and reputations, this book will reassure readers that the real power lies in becoming a giver. Since the vast majority of people aren’t born givers, Grant not only presents the case for why givers win, he also offers their hidden strategies for winning.
The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution: Real-Time Strategic Planning in a Rapid-Response World
The world changes continuously and rapidly. It s foolhardy to believe that strategies should not do so as well. Nonprofit leaders already know this, but traditional strategic planning has locked them into a process that s divorced from today s reality. That s why plans sit on the shelf and why smart executives are always seeking workarounds in between planning periods. ” The Nonprofit Strategy Revolution” offers a nimble and powerful alternative. In this groundbreaking book, strategy expert David La Piana introduces Real-Time Strategic Planning, a fluid, organic process that engages staff and board in a program of systematic readiness and continuous responsiveness. With it, your nonprofit will be able to identify, understand, and act on challenges and opportunities as they arise. At the heart of this practical book is the Real-Time Strategic Planning Cycle. Based on four years of research and testing with a variety of nonprofits, this proven process guides you through the steps to sound strategy. You ll find tools for clarifying your competitive advantage; generating a strategy screen criteria for evaluating strategies to be able to respond quickly; handling big questions; developing and testing strategies; and implementing and adapting strategies.