A group of whistleblowers wrote to the trustees of BeatBullying towards the end of October to alert of them of possible mismanagement of the charity, Third Sector has learned.
In a letter dated 20 October, the group of current and former staff members accused the charity, which went into voluntary liquidation last Friday, of breaching employment contracts, failing in their duty of care to employees, not operating proper financial controls, and failing to keep pension contributions up to date, among other concerns.
As Third Sector reported last week, some staff at the charity did not receive their full salaries in August, September and October, and many are still owed money.
In the letter to the trustees, the group described the wage deductions as "involuntary" and not permitted under the terms of their employment contracts. They also raised questions about the manner in which recent staff resignations and dismissals were handled.
The letter said: "During the period of 11 August to 13 October, four members of staff have been forced to resign from the BeatBullying Group as they were not receiving the salary promised to them in their employment contracts.
"Either they tried to resolve this and were met with much hostility and/or they had to make the decision to find alternative work in order to pay their bills."
The letter continued: "On 10 September, 40 per cent of the organisation were formally made redundant. They received notification in writing but were never administered any redundancy slips or P45s. In addition, they were only given 24 hours to appeal the redundancy decisions and were requested to hand all equipment back by 12 September, making it very difficult for them to fulfil their notice period without a laptop to work on."
The letter was addressed to Sarah Long, BeatBullying’s chair, and its other trustees. According to the Charity Commission’s register, the other trustees are Aiden Bantin, Meryl Bushell, Philip Messenger, David Miller, Catherine Raynor, Tim Waldron and Karl Wilding.
The group of present and former employees also accused the charity of failing in its duty of care towards its employees, many of whom were young people. The letter said: "The mission of the charity is to relieve suffering from bullying and support young people with their mental health. However, this was at odds with the way the charity behaved towards its employees – many of whom are young adults with mental health problems who had recently been made redundant."
The group asked trustees to explain why the charity decided to hire at least 10 new staff members in the first half of 2014 despite posting a deficit of £280,065 in 2012 and making redundancies in 2013.
They also asked the trustees to explain the decision to invest in We Are Cosmo, a community interest company set up by BeatBullying to develop the software that operates its online counselling and mentoring services.
The group called on trustees to explain why they had not retained sufficient reserves to cover staff salaries and general operating costs in the event of the late payment of a grant. "We wondered why this decision had been overlooked when it is clearly recommended by the Charity Commission in their guidance to trustees?" the letter said.
The letter writers also sought assurances about whether the charity had continued to make national insurance and other financial contributions on behalf of staff.
The letter said: "There are considerable doubts over whether or not taxes and NI have been paid on behalf of the BeatBullying Group employees as we have received evidence from Aviva that no contributions have been made since March 2014.
"The pensions scheme is offered as one of the employee benefits at the BeatBullying Group, and we are very disappointed that employees were not made aware that their pension contributions were not being paid. This raises the question over whether taxes and student loan repayments have been paid on behalf of employees."
Third Sector has seen a letter from Aviva confirming that pension contributions for one former employee had not been paid since April and warning that the BeatBullying Group might be reported to The Pensions Regulator. The group of former staff are concerned that contributions may not have been made for others as well.
On 23 October, the Charity Commission said that it had received a serious incident report from the charity and was looking into various concerns.
Wilding said in an email to Third Sector that the trustees of BeatBullying had been advised not to talk to the media at this time.