Two children’s hospital charities have pledged to return or reject donations totalling more than £1m from the scandal-hit charity the Presidents Club, after it was revealed the money had been raised through men-only gala events where female hostesses were sexually harassed.
The Financial Times newspaper yesterday reported that its undercover journalists had last week attended one of the Presidents Club’s annual gala dinners and found that young women hired as hostesses were allegedly subject to groping, flashing and lewd comments by male attendees.
The Presidents Club, which held the events to raise money for a range of charities, mostly focused on children and health, announced last night that it would wind itself up.
One of the biggest recipients of donations from the Presidents Club was the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, which said yesterday it had had no involvement with the club and would be returning all donations.
Gosh Children’s Charity has since confirmed the total amount to be repaid will be £530,000. It said it would be repaying in full at the earliest opportunity and had already contacted the Charity Commission and the Presidents Club about the issue.
A spokeswoman said the charity had applied to the club for the money and received it between 2009 and 2016 in three separate grants, the largest of which was made in four instalments.
She said: "The charity has a clear fundraising policy around what donations we can accept, and carries out thorough due diligence. We would never knowingly accept funds raised in this manner and have acted as soon as we have become aware of this issue."
She said the charity had received a number of donations after it announced its plans to pay back Presidents Club donations yesterday.
Evelina London Children’s Hospital, a part of the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, is to give up £665,000 intended to fund a new intensive care unit, £265,000 of which had been donated between 1998 and 2017 and £400,000 of which was pledged by last week's event. But the charity said construction of the unit would still go ahead.
The Scottish children’s charity the STV Appeal has also said it will return past donations, but a spokeswoman said the charity was still working out how much that would be. The Presidents Club accounts show donations to STV Appeal totalling £125,000 between 2014 and 2016.
Other charities have also offered to return money donated by the Presidents Club. The Clatterbridge Cancer Charity confirmed that it would be returning a donation of £15,000 from the club it received last year.
The Guardian newspaper reported that the Royal Academy of Music would return £10,000 donated by the club for a scholarship for a violin student. The RAM described the allegations as "deeply disturbing" and said it had nothing to do with the club or its events.
But Cancer Research UK and the Treloar Trust, an educational charity for children with disabilities, said that although they would not accept donations from the club in future, they would not be returning previous donations because they had already spent the money.
CRUK received a one-off donation of £15,000, which Frances Milner, its executive director of philanthropy and partnerships, said had already been spent on research into childhood cancers.
She said the reported behaviour was intolerable and incompatible with CRUK’s values. She said CRUK had never had any involvement with the Presidents Club and no one from CRUK had ever attended the dinner.
In response to a letter from a group of more than 40 MPs expressing concerns about the Presidents Club, the Charity Commission said it would continue to look into the charity.
In the letter, Helen Stephenson, the commission’s chief executive, said: "We are aware that the charity is reported to be planning to wind up.
"The commission will continue to deal robustly with any misconduct or mismanagement that we find and will consider what further regulatory action may be required.
"We will also ensure that the charity is wound up in an orderly manner and that the remaining funds are distributed correctly."