Charity ordered to pay back £185k

Suffolk welfare charity ordered to return grant to European Social Fund after flood destroys vital documents

A Suffolk charity has been told to repay nearly £200,000 of grant funding after a flood left it unable to provide documentation on how the money was spent.

The Aid and Assist Project, which helps disadvantaged families in East Anglia, received £185,000 from the European Social Fund in 2000 to set up a training workshop for adults with learning disabilities. The project was a partnership with Suffolk County Council.

A flood at the project's workshop in 2006 destroyed invoices showing how the money was spent and the organisation was therefore unable to prove to auditors last year where the funding had gone. The organisation received a letter from the Government Office for the East of England on 14 January asking it to repay the whole amount by 14 February.

Ann Stockdale-Bond, project manager at Aid and Assist, said the organisation was in no position to pay back the funds and was seeking intervention from the local MEP. "We will be forced to close if they insist on us paying the money back," she said.

Go East issued a statement saying there was insufficient evidence to show how the funding had been spent. It said the matter would be referred to the Department for Work and Pensions, which is the managing authority for the European Social Fund programme in England.

"No final decision has been made about any financial recovery, and we will continue to work with DWP and Aid and Assist to agree a way forward," the statement said.

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