Police have suspended new measures brought in to tackle security concerns about door-to-door collections in London after the Public Fundraising Association said they were causing problems for its fundraising agency members.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police – which is responsible for licensing door-to-door fundraising in London – confirmed that it had put on hold a new policy it introduced in January requiring fundraising organisations to ensure that all their fundraisers in the capital underwent criminal record checks and became members of the Fundraising Standards Board.
She said the policy had been trialled in response to security concerns discussed with the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Standards Board about door-to-door fundraising but that it was reviewed after the PFRA raised concerns earlier this year.
"We subsequently decided to suspend the changes we introduced in January 2016," the spokeswoman said. "A number of considerations and recommendations need to be considered at a very senior level of the Metropolitan Police. Therefore, in the interest of causing the least amount of disruption to charities during this process, we removed the requirement for checks as stated, but we continue to encourage charities to exercise due diligence in relation to their collectors."
Peter Hills-Jones, chief executive of the PFRA, told Third Sector in April that the requirement for fundraisers to undergo the checks – known as Disclosure and Barring Service checks – was one of the main factors behind the significant decline in face-to-face fundraising in the year to March.
He said last week that he was informed of the Met’s decision earlier this month and that it was "very good news".
He said: "They listened to the argument we put forward – that this is was a disproportionate measure because the Met police do not have concerns about fundraisers endangering community safety."
Asked why the policy was so problematic for the PFRA’s members, he said: "It was about the time it was going to take to get these basic disclosure tests conducted. The current waiting time for these tests can be upwards of six to eight weeks and, in terms of getting campaigns up and running, that’s a huge amount of time to be waiting to get fundraisers out there."
Hill-Jones said the PFRA had agreed a compromise with the Met whereby it would now require new agencies that joined the association to go through an accreditation process.
"Then we will communicate to the Met about whether or not they’re a member in good standing and whether or not we have any concerns about that agency," he said. "It stops short of making them undergo a full basic disclosure test."
Dominic Will, managing director of the doorstep agency Home Fundraising, who was involved in the negotiations, said the Met’s original concern related to the potential for fraudulent activity relating to charity cash collections.
"It was subsequently appreciated that committed-giving fundraising activity at the doorstep represents a very minor risk," said Will, who is also a trustee of the Institute of Fundraising. "It’s our understanding that the Met did not wish to impose measures that would punitively restrict fundraising activity, which the DBS requirement would certainly have led to."
Alistair McLean, chief executive of the FRSB, confirmed that the regulator met the Charity Commission and the Met police in late 2015 but said it had no involvement with any decisions the police made about door-to-door fundraising. "We are unaware of the initiative they have now suspended," he said.
A spokesman for the Charity Commission said the changes to licensing conditions were a police matter.