Charity Commission responds after MP questions its ‘competencies’

03 Mar 2023 News

Charity Commission building and logo

Civil Society Media

The charity regulator has defended its investigation into Care4Calais, as well as charities' rights to take part in political activity that supports their purpose, in response to criticism in the House of Commons.

At a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday, Conservative MP Craig Mackinlay called into question the Commission’s “competencies and abilities to investigate properly”.

He said: “Care4Calais has been under investigation by the Charity Commission since August 2020 but there are no outcomes yet.  

“So, we’re getting towards the three-year anniversary and that in itself, I find quite remarkable for a £1.6m institution that is patently uncomplicated, and that does lead into some questions as to the Charity Commission's competencies and abilities to investigate properly.”

A Care4Calais spokesperson said: “Care4Calais’ accounts are available on the Charity Commission website and are independently audited. Our income is transparent and the vast majority of our donations come from ordinary people who care as deeply as we do about refugee protection.

“We have cooperated fully with the Charity Commission and worked positively with them to ensure best-practice governance and compliance. We remain committed to our work supporting refugees and asylum seekers, and to our legal and ethical duties as a charitable organisation.”

‘Investigation is fair, balanced and independent’

A Commission spokesperson told Civil Society News: “Each investigation is undertaken in a fair, balanced and independent manner, and an inquiry will only conclude once the Commission is satisfied that all regulatory concerns have been sufficiently investigated and resolved and all evidence assessed.”

They said the Care4Calais inquiry opened in August 2020, and as its investigation is ongoing, it is unable to comment further at this time.

The regulator has so far appointed two interim managers as part of its work with trustees, and the inquiry is considering safeguarding and financial controls at Care4Calais, and whether there has been any mismanagement or misconduct in the administration of the charity. 

In his debate on the “transparency of charity sector funding”, Mackinlay also questioned the sources of Care4Calais’ income.

“There is complete opacity that I could not penetrate as to where its £1.6m of funding—according to its most recent accounts—comes from,” he said.

Care4Calais’ accounts are publicly accessible on the Commission’s register and show that £1.58m of its £1.62m income in the year to September 2021 came from donations and legacies.

The remaining money came from shops and investment income, according to the accounts.

‘Political activity can support a charity’s purpose’

Mackinlay also said charities “bite the hand of the government that is feeding it” prompting civil society minister Stuart Andrew to respond campaigning can be a legitimate way for charities to spend their money.

A Commission spokesperson told Civil Society News that charities can take part in political activity that supports their purpose and is in their best interests.

“There are many examples where carrying out political activity is the best way for trustees to support their charity’s purpose. However, political activity must not become the reason for the charity’s existence,” they said.

Editor's Note: A comment from a Care4Calais spokesperson was added after publication.



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