Commission looks into allegations against charity founded by Liam Fox

A news article claimed Give Us Time has helped fewer than 130 families despite receiving a £500,000 government grant in 2014

Give Us Time
Give Us Time

The Charity Commission has said it examining accusations in the media that Give us Time, an armed forces charity started by former defence secretary Liam Fox, is not fulfilling its objects effectively.

A BuzzFeed News piece published yesterday claimed Give Us Time, which provides breaks to service personnel and their families to help them reconnect after tours of duty, has helped fewer than 130 families and given away less than £110,000 of holiday stays since it was set up in 2012, despite a £500,000 grant from the Treasury in 2014.

BuzzFeed also claimed the charity and one of its donors together funded a week-long trip to Bulgaria for two of Fox’s office staff, including flights, which beneficiaries are normally asked to fund themselves.

Give Us Time was set up in partnership with the charity Afghan Heroes, of which Fox was a patron. He stood down from Afghan Heroes in 2013 citing a "breakdown in trust" after the Charity Commission opened a statutory inquiry into the charity. 

Tom Watson, the Labour deputy leader, said the charity "appears to have done very little" until it received the grant, which came from the proceeds of fines on banks from the Libor scandal, and that Fox had to urgently address questions raised by figures.

Watson also called on Fox, who is the Conservative MP for North Somerset, to release details of the salaries paid to all senior staff at the charity, although the charity's most recent set of accounts, for the year to September 2015, state that no salaries or wages had been paid to any employees, including the members of the committee, during the year.

A spokesman for the Charity Commission said: "We are aware of the Buzzfeed News article regarding the charity Give Us Time.

"We are currently looking at the information to make a judgment whether there is any action needed from the commission."

The spokesman said the regulator had not previously investigated the charity or received any complaints about it.

The charity, which had an income of £645,000 and spent £160,000 in the year to September 2015 according to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, works by encouraging by asking the owners of holiday homes, hotels, resorts and timeshares to donate time in the accommodation to be matched up with a military family in need of a break.

A spokeswoman for Give Us Time told Third Sector the charity had not been able to take up all of the time offered to the charity because not all of the accommodation was suitable.

"When Give Us Time was established it had phenomenal support and many weeks of time pledged," she said.

"However, the majority of these were from non-commercially let properties and for health and safety reasons, Give Us Time could not take these weeks of donated time.

"Military life can be unpredictable and because specific weeks donated often have a time limit, they expire if they are not utilised."

In response to the accusations that two of Fox’s office staff had been given free flights, she said the two people in question had been acting as volunteers for the charity.

"Give Us Time has a duty of care to anyone going on a trip with them; for the larger trips, for example the trip to Bulgaria, volunteers join the groups of families to ensure a smooth and safe trip," she said.

"In this case the volunteers took unpaid leave and travel costs were covered; this agreement is the same for any volunteer supporting the charity on similar trips."

The charity also told BuzzFeed News that Fox has had no involvement in the charity’s operations or accounting processes since founding it.

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