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New watchdog to tackle rogue fundraisers

Published 03/10/2015

Olive Cooke was one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers
Olive Cooke was one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers

Large charities could be forced to sign up to a new watchdog under changes being introduced by the Government to tackle rogue fundraisers.

Charities will at first be given the opportunity to voluntarily sign up to the new regulatory system but ministers will have the power to compel them if they fail to protect supporters from undue pressure to donate to good causes.

The new fundraising watchdog is aimed at making sure large charities stick to a strict code of good practice, including protecting the identity of donors.

Under the new regime anyone who is inundated with fundraising marketing material from charities will be able to press "reset" and stop receiving this material.

The new measures follow a Government-commissioned review chaired by the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations Sir Stuart Etherington, which was set up amid widespread public concern over the death of 92-year-old Olive Cooke, one of Britain's oldest and longest-serving poppy sellers.

After she took her own life earlier this year, her family described how she had been receiving repeated requests from charities for donations with up to 267 letters a month as well as regular phone calls.

In its report, the review concluded the existing regulatory system - based around the Fundraising Standards Board (FRSB) - was "no longer fit for purpose" and had lost the confidence of both the public and the fundraising organisations.

It said it should be replaced by a new body - the Fundraising Regulator - with powers to mount investigations and a wide range of sanctions including naming and shaming, "cease and desist" orders and compulsory training.

The Government has accepted the findings of the Etherington Review but will go further by writing the new system into law, with a "reserve power" to compel large charities - expected to cover those which spend more than £100,000 on fundraising - to sign up to the new regulator if the voluntary approach fails.

Minister for Civil Society Rob Wilson said: "Charitable giving is one of the most decent and generous attributes of a civilised society - and we need to rebuild people's faith in the big charities. Those who give to charity should know their donation is going to further a worthy cause and this trust will never be abused.

"We are building a new regulatory structure to make sure the right safeguards exist to protect those people at risk of exploitation. This should help the charities to draw a line under previous bad practice and I hope we will see even more people making donations and giving their time to help others in the months and years ahead."

These powers will add to changes in the Charities Bill that give the Charity Commission more teeth to tackle abuse.

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