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Scottish regulator finds misconduct at homelessness charity

28 Mar 2023 News

OSCR

The Scottish charity regulator, OSCR, has found there was misconduct at a homelessness charity.

OSCR yesterday published its inquiry reports into two homelessness charities. It had opened an inquiry into Social Bite Fund in September 2020, which has a connected charity called the World’s Big Sleep Out Trust.

It found that there was a lack of clarity in the communications from one of the Social Bite Fund’s trustees to other members of board about amendments they had made to a draft agreement between the charity and the World’s Big Sleep Out Trust. 

It also found that the Social Bite Fund’s trustees at the time did not appropriately manage a conflict of interest that arose when these amendments were made.

“Given the importance of this agreement to Social Bite Fund and its potential impact and financial consequences, we have reached a finding of misconduct in the administration of the charity,” reads the inquiry report.

This finding of misconduct in the administration of the charity does not apply to one of the former charity trustees of the Social Bite Fund, Morag McNeil, who was unaware of the particular communications regarding the amendments because she was away on holiday.

OSCR found no evidence of bad faith or personal gain during its inquiry, and the report states the current trustees “continue to take a proactive approach and are focussed on improvement”. 

The regulator took no formal action in response to its findings because it considers it an isolated incident.

‘We are pleased with the conclusion’

Andrew Cubie, Social Bite Fund chair, said: “Over the past three years Social Bite trustees past and present have given considerable time to support fully OSCR’s inquiry, and we are pleased with the conclusion that no recommendations are being made to the charity and no action is required.

“With only one finding by OSCR which relates to an isolated administrative error from four years ago, it found no wrongdoing, financial detriment to the charity or personal gain. Critically OSCR recognised former trustees took appropriate steps when they became aware.

“Finally, we are pleased with OSCR’s positive recognition of the proactive approach taken by both former and current trustees to the governance, reporting and communication of the charity, reaffirming that Social Bite adheres to the highest standards of governance.”

The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust

The World’s Big Sleep Out Trust’s most recently available accounts on OSCR’s website show it had an income of around £6m.

The inquiry report shows the chair of the charity notified OSCR in April 2021 that the charity had inadvertently breached the terms of an agreement it had entered into with the Social Bite Fund. 

OSCR opened an inquiry into the Trust to understand the position more clearly. And during the inquiries also received information about contracts entered into before the creation of the Trust that related to the global event. 

There were concerns raised about whether all the initial charity trustees were aware of and understood those arrangements.

OSCR found that the charity trustees acted with care and diligence, and while there are areas where governance could have been improved, the regulator said it did not amount to mismanagement.

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