Founder pays charity bills after bank mistakenly freezes account 

29 Feb 2024 News


The founder of a small charity in Cambridge has paid some of his charity’s bills, after NatWest froze its account in error.

Please Take Me There, a charity which flies young patients to treatment and holidays, was unable to access the charity account for six days.

Founder Fernando Pinho told Civil Society this meant “no donations coming in, no payments being made, nothing”. 

He said: “We are a micro charity. We have three volunteers. I founded the charity nearly 10 years ago. And that's where I spend my life.”

Pinho became aware of the issue when depositing a £1,000 cash donation from a local company, which decided to donate to its programme in Myanmar.

The charity bank card was not working, and Pinho was told the bank account was frozen. Pinho said the issue arose over an organisation with a similar name, which had been closed.

“To me what is happening here is that their process is not robust enough to catch situations where accounts have similar names,” the founder said.

Pinho said the charity takes donations “very seriously” as many charities are struggling – “I work very hard to keep the reputation of the charity intact”. 

Unsure of income lost

Pinho said: “I decided to go public, so I made a post on Facebook on the charity’s group.

“I was overwhelmed with responses from other charities that went through similar problems, with the same problem with similar names. I got a lot of feedback.

“I knew that if I didn't do anything, this would be days and days and days or weeks until it was solved.”

NatWest sent an official email with the explanation of what happened. They made an offer of compensation for £750, and they sent a letter that could be shared with supporters explaining what happened was not the charity's responsibility.

“I spent two days stressed and just working on this,” Pinho said.

“I cannot quantify how many charitable donations were blocked”, he said, as a lot of the charity’s income comes from abroad and may not have been received.

The charity receives around £2,000 in monthly donations from Portugal, where Pinho is from.

“So I don't know which transactions bounced back because I will need the donor to contact me and tell me that bounced.”

“The other impact is that I always send some money towards the end of the month to Myanmar and I need to postpone that.”

Pinho also paid some of the charity bills himself, which will be reimbursed, as he was concerned about missing payments.

A NatWest spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly for an isolated administrative error which resulted in this charity being unable to access their account for six days.

“The account is now active and we are arranging to compensate the customer for the inconvenience this error caused.”

Last year, UK charity regulators called on banks to improve their “substandard” services for charities, some of which are having their accounts closed or suspended suddenly and are experiencing “poor customer service and administrative delays”. 

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