The trustees of a charity accused of unduly removing other charities’ clothing banks have been given an official warning by the Charity Commission.
The regulator opened a compliance case into the Wolverhampton-based children’s charity Helping Our Future in 2016, after receiving complaints about the charity’s management of clothing banks.
Complaints accused companies linked to the charity of removing other charities’ clothing banks and replacing them with their own without permission from landowners.
In 2018, the Textile Recycling Association said that its investigators had removed 200 clothing banks which had been placed in supermarket car parks without permission and repainted with the logo of Helping our Future.
Trustees ‘unaware of accounting procedures’
The Charity Commission found that the charity’s trustees failed in various aspects of their governance duties. The trustees could not explain how the recycling companies operated, what clothing they collected or how they calculated how much was due to the charity.
They also did not properly manage the charity’s finances. They filed accounts late in 2018 and 2019, and admitted to “being unaware of accounting procedures”. They also closed the charity’s bank account without opening a new one.
Meanwhile, the trustees tried to change the charity’s charitable objects without permission from the regulator, and “misrepresented” them on its website. The regulator said that the charity’s objects are “to support children in the UK, Pakistan and India”.
Finally, the regulator also said that the charity did not fully cooperate with the investigation, for example by cancelling meetings at short notice or changing the person in charge of answering the Commission’s enquiries.
According to the Charity Commission’s register, Helping Our Future had an income of £36,600 for the year ending in February 2019.
The regulator's warning details a series of actions that trustees have been asked to undertake, including opening a bank account, making sure they properly monitor the charity’s activities and finances, and amending all the charity’s literature and website so that they reflect its charitable objects.
The compliance case remains open, and the warning says that failing to comply with instructions “may lead to further regulatory action being taken by the Commission”.
Trustees did not ‘demonstrate good governance’ and were ‘obstructive’
Helen Earner, director of regulatory services at the Charity Commission, said: “Good governance is not a bureaucratic detail – it underpins the delivery of a charity’s purposes to the high standards expected by the public. It’s the way in which trustees can ensure they are meeting their responsibilities to their charity and its beneficiaries.
“The trustees of Helping Our Future did not demonstrate good governance or act even after significant concerns were raised with them. They have also been obstructive in response to our approaches. We expect the trustees to now act quickly to comply with the required actions and address our continued concerns.”
Charity complaint about the regulator
In a statement the charity said it intends to complain about the Commission's handling of the case.
It said: "We welcome the opportunity of the official warning which now allows us to invite the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to inspect this matter in full."
Editor's note - 13 Oct 4pm
This story has been updated to include comment from the charity.