The Charity Commission has criticised a lack of scrutiny of Care4Calais’s founder Clare Moseley and “inappropriate” payments made to her when she was both chief executive and a trustee as its three-year investigation concludes.
Its statutory inquiry report, published today, is critical of Care4Calais’s former trustees, which included Moseley and her sister, but says the charity’s decision to challenge the government’s Rwanda plan was within its objects.
The inquiry found that, over a number of years, the charity lacked appropriate governance structures, had poor internal financial controls and that its approach to handling complaints was inadequate.
An investigation by interim managers referred to in the report concluded that “there had not been any robust challenge” of Moseley in her position as CEO and that the charity “placed an unhealthy reliance on her”.
However, the report says that the current trustee board has implemented new action plan and introduced significant improvements to the charity’s management, governance and operation.
Moseley registered the charity in 2016 and was its chief executive until her replacement, Steve Smith, was appointed in April 2023.
In May this year, Moseley stepped down as a trustee, which the report says was due to a disagreement with Smith over the distribution of decision-making power in the charity.
Smith said in response to the report that the charity’s new trustees have “taken the criticisms of previous governance shortcomings seriously, and are dedicated to learning from the past, embracing change, and making Care4Calais a symbol of hope and compassion”.
Orlando Fraser, chair of the Commission, said he was “very aware that this charity’s work has generated attention and controversy” but that the regulator “will not be influenced by political debates”.
‘Inappropriate’ payments to founder
The Commission has had “a history of engagement with the charity” since its registration in 2016, according to the the report, and first opened a compliance case in 2017.
It then opened its inquiry in August 2020 and appointed interim managers to the exclusion of Moseley and the other trustees from July to December 2021.
The inquiry report is critical of the charity’s financial management, notably a lack of suitable internal financial controls.
Between October 2017 and August 2020, payments totalling £340,000 were made to Moseley’s personal bank account when she was both unpaid CEO and a trustee.
The payments ranged in value from £2,800 to £20,000, and at the beginning of the inquiry the Commission restricted financial transactions between the charity and its trustees.
It found that these payments were reimbursements for charitable expenditure incurred by Moseley.
Moseley said this arrangement saved the charity around £3,000 per year in foreign exchange fees, but the inquiry concluded that while no funds were misused or misappropriated for private benefit, this arrangement was inappropriate.
The report says Moseley “does not accept that this practice was inappropriate and maintains that the independent examination of the charity’s accounts after the financial year end was a sufficient control mechanism”.
Conflict of interest
The report also found that between 2020 and 2021, Care4Calais operated with two trustees, below the minimum of three required.
Moreover, a dispute between board members left them “unwilling or unable to resolve their conflict”, and the regulator therefore appointed additional trustees.
The inquiry also concluded that the charity’s handling of complaints was inadequate, as it failed to demonstrate that complaints were handled in an impartial, fair, open and transparent way and failed to maintain records of investigations.
On at least one occasion, Moseley’s sister handled a complaint about her and “the charity failed to identify or manage the conflict of interest and/or loyalty which arose”.
The inquiry found that “the lack of properly defined roles for the CEO coupled with insufficient oversight and scrutiny by the trustee board” led to Moseley “dominating the charity and going unchallenged for some time”.
Campaigning and political activity
As part of its inquiry, the Commission reviewed the trustees’ decision to issue judicial review proceedings to challenge the UK government’s migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda.
It found the decision was properly made, adequately documented, and was within the range of reasonable decisions open to the trustees of this charity.
The activity itself served to further the charity’s objects, and the inquiry determined it was in line with the Commission’s guidance on political campaigning.
“There were also a number of media reports alleging that that charity is involved in or facilitates illegal immigration which the charity’s trustees have strongly denied,” the report adds.
The Commission does not investigate crime or criminal offenses, and during the inquiry, “the charity repeatedly confirmed that it does not support, encourage, or facilitate illegal border crossings”.
Its inquiry advised the charity to make this explicitly clear in all its policies and procedures and training materials for staff and volunteers.
New charity CEO: Trustees taking criticisms seriously
Steve Smith, CEO of Care4Calais said; “Everyone at Care4Calais is incredibly proud of the journey our charity has been on since it started in 2015. Thanks to our fantastic volunteers, we have been able to provide direct aid and support to thousands of refugees in northern France and the UK, making a huge difference to the lives of people who have survived some of the worst things imaginable such as war, torture and modern slavery.
“The Charity Commission inquiry provided us with an invaluable opportunity to critically assess our practices, identify areas for improvement and overhaul our governance. We now have an entirely new board of trustees who all acknowledge that the growth in our humanitarian work since 2015 vastly outpaced the development of the charity's governance structures. As a charity dedicated to helping those in need, our new trustees have taken the criticisms of previous governance shortcomings seriously, and are dedicated to learning from the past, embracing change, and making Care4Calais a symbol of hope and compassion.
“Despite the challenges of the inquiry, our commitment to support refugees never wavered. I am eternally grateful to all our volunteers and staff who kept our humanitarian work going throughout this period, enabling the charity to continue growing. We welcome the conclusion of the Inquiry and the opportunity that brings to mould this important charity into a new and forward looking organisation that puts refugees front and centre of our work.”
Fraser: ‘Care4Calais was not managed well’
Commission chair Fraser said: “Our inquiry found that, over a significant period of time, and following a rapid expansion of its operations, Care4Calais was not managed well. Its funds were put at risk, and there was serious misconduct and/or mismanagement by the former trustees.
“I am pleased that the Commission’s intervention has led to significant improvements to the charity’s governance, not least thanks to the work of the interim manager and new leadership. The charity is now in a much better position to deliver on its purposes. We have issued the new trustees with advice and guidance, including in relation to its international activities, so the charity is managed in line with the law and our regulatory expectations into the future.”
He added: “I am very aware that this charity’s work has generated attention and controversy. We will not shy away from examining concerns raised about any charity and will take strong action where necessary. However, as a fair, balanced and independent regulator we will not be influenced by political debates, nor should we stop charities from furthering their purposes in line with the law set down by Parliament. It is for the Commission to assess whether trustees are meeting their responsibilities – and that is what we have done.”