Hospice UK chief executive denies blame for travails of rival

Tracey Bleakely says she completely rejects Hospice Aid UK's 'attempt to hold us responsible for problems we had no part in'

Tracey Bleakley
Tracey Bleakley

The chief executive of Hospice UK has rejected claims by the rival charity Hospice Aid UK that her charity was to blame for the latter charity’s decision to enter into a contract with a fundraising agency that resulted in only 6 per cent of donations going to the cause.

Hospice Aid UK said yesterday in response to a critical report by the Charity Commission that it was forced to enter into an agreement with the direct marketing agency Euro DM as a way of surviving after Hospice UK made a series of allegations to the commission about the charity that caused it to lose a major sponsor.

But Tracey Bleakley, who became chief executive of Hospice UK in January, told Third Sector today that the accusations against her charity were unfounded.

"We completely reject Hospice Aid UK’s attempt to hold us responsible for problems we had no part in," she said.

Referencing the commission’s report, which represented the culmination of a statutory inquiry lasting more than two years, Bleakley said "numerous, serious failures" had been identified at Hospice Aid UK and the regulator had rightly held the charity and its trustees accountable for its "poor behaviour".

The commission said in its report that it had serious regulatory concerns about the Hospice Aid UK’s management and administration after finding that in the three years since the charity entered into a seven-year agreement with Euro DM, only about 5.5 per cent of the £1.4m total raised went to the cause.

But Hospice Aid UK said in a statement on its website yesterday that the agency relationship came about partly because Hospice UK, formerly known as Help the Hospices, had for the past eight years waged a campaign against it.

"Help the Hospices has continued to work against the charity, not least directing hospices that have received grants from the charity to return them," it said.

Bleakley confirmed to Third Sector that Hospice UK had complained to the Charity Commission about Hospice Aid UK in 2009, but said this was because several of its local hospice members had expressed concern that the charity was falsely claiming to be fundraising on their behalf in supermarkets.

She denied that Hospice UK had urged hospices to return grants.

Kim Way, director of Euro DM, which is still working with Hospice Aid UK, said yesterday that a larger competitor organisation – which Way did not name – had run a campaign to "diminish the brand of our client".

Way said the organisation in question had changed its name to be "confusingly similar" to that of Hospice Aid UK, in an apparent reference to Hospice UK’s name change in 2014.

Hospice Aid UK appealed to the charity tribunal earlier this year to force the Charity Commission to step in and ask Hospice UK to change its name, claiming the similarity to its own name had caused confusion and resulted in donations being sent to the wrong charity. The tribunal rejected the appeal, but Hospice Aid UK said on its website yesterday that the case was the subject of a judicial review application in the High Court.

Bleakley said today this was the first she had heard about such a review.

A spokesman for the Fundraising Regulator confirmed today that the commission had referred its report to the more specialist regulator to consider.

"We will work closely with the commission to address the concerns raised in its report and will consider the appropriate remedial steps that should be taken by the agency," he said.

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