Charities delivering public services face closure over living wage

Plus: Chief Executive leaves Save the Children; Eaves charity forced to close; Zoological Society criticised over unpaid intern job

Charities that deliver public services face the "very real prospect of closure" unless the government amends contracts to take into account the new national living wage, charity leaders warned. The warning came in a letter from a group of charity leaders to George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in advance of the comprehensive spending review. The NLW, due to be introduced in April 2016, will increase the minimum wage to £7.20 per hour, rising to £9 by 2020. The letter, signed by the heads of six charity umbrella bodies including the Charity Finance Group, Navca and the Institute of Fundraising, said the Third Sector Research Centre estimated the total cost to the voluntary sector of the change would be £500m.

Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children UK since September 2010, is to leave the charity in February. In an email to staff announcing his departure, Forsyth said: "The last few years have not always been easy. What we have achieved is the result of blood, sweat and tears. We have operated under the spotlight with much more intense external scrutiny." Forsyth, a former adviser to Tony Blair, apologised earlier this year after Save the Children US gave a global legacy award to the former Prime Minister. Meanwhile, Save declined to comment on reports that Brendan Cox, its director of policy and advocacy, left the charity amid complaints about "inappropriate behaviour" towards women. The Mail on Sunday newspaper had reported that some staff at the charity complained there had not been a proper investigation of the allegations. Cox, who quit in September after four years in the role, denied the claims made against him.

The charity Eaves, which provided support for female victims of violence, has closed, transferring some of its services to other organisations. Louisa Cox, chair of the charity, said in a statement that "abysmal commissioning" and high rents were factors. She said: "I became chair of Eaves in May 2015. I was faced with a substantial funding deficit of more than £700,000, coupled with a depleting reserves position and weak fundraising pipeline. Together with the board of trustees, I therefore took the very difficult decision on 30 September 2015 to close down Eaves." The charity employed 33 people, according to its accounts for the year to the end of March 2014.

The Zoological Society of London has been criticised for advertising for a graduate to work on an international project for six months as an unpaid intern. The successful candidate for the role would assist in organising events, updating a website and social media and identifying funding opportunities for a species survival panel to protect the pangolin, an endangered anteater-like creature. According to the advert, candidates for the six-month role, based at the charity's conservation programmes department at London Zoo, would ideally have a first or post-graduate degree in biology, conservation or a related subject. They would ideally work four to five days a week and would receive a travelcard and £5 towards lunch, the advertisement said. But Ben Lyons, the co-director of the campaign group Intern Aware, said this was not acceptable. He said: "It's really wrong for any organisation to be asking young people to work for months and months on end without any pay. London Zoo is a multimillion-pound tourist attraction." Fiona Evans, human resources director for ZSL, said the charity was always reviewing its policies and would take the concerns of others into consideration.

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