The Charity Commission visited North Kensington following the Grenfell Tower fire. They were receiving reports that the local community were unhappy with the situation of local charities receiving and handing out the huge sums of money that came flooding in following the fire. In many cases it was understood that local people had no prior knowledge of or awareness of these charities, who they were or what they did, who in some cases were receiving literally millions of pounds in donations.
What was it that got the Charity Commission out of their central London offices and into the streets of North Kensington?
Aside from the obvious risk of financial mismanagement (in their langauge 'Fraud and Financial Abuse'), in a situation where millions of pounds suddenly flood into a disaster zone, there was another risk that the Charity Commission identified and has a statutory obligation to look out for.
One that has the potential to dwarf the impact of the odd financial wrongdoing.
One that has raised its head a number of times over the past few years with quite devastating effect.
One that was all too apparent in North Kensington's attitude toward charities.
That is: PUBLIC TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN CHARITY.
The recent cases of Kids Company, Oxfam and the Grenfell-related Red Cross donations debacle (which caused people to withdraw regular monthly support) highlight what a massive impact this particular risk can have, to both individual charities and an entire sector. A sector which not only has to compete with commercial interests for spare change but, also cope with the frightening realities of Austerity Britain.
The Charity Commission is a public body who actually have purposely limited scope to interfere with charities. They operate from what is called a 'Risk Framework' (VIEW HERE: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/risk-framework-charity-commission).
It is only in extreme cases that they can roll into town and take over in the way that some would wish they would and it has always been a source of frustration that members of Westway23 have discussed at great length, on countless occasions in relation to the Westway Trust.
However, looking at the situation now, it is time to ask some searching questions:
- Has the reputation of charity in North Kensington been repeatedly dragged through the dirt by the Westway Trust?
- Can the Westway Trust actually carry out its duties to the local community with the reputation it has?
- Can we now identify clear breaches of Trust - that is, actions that clearly go against their own constitution and against their own beneficiaries - in the Trust's behaviour?
- Being by far one of - if not the - biggest local charity (which is also a company BTW), does the protracted situation of the Westway Trust risk the reputation of charity throughout North Kensington and potentially beyond?
- Is it time for the Commission to roll back into town to support some concerned locals?