Commission 'satisfied' with progress made by Help for Heroes

The regulator investigated concerns about the charity's governance arrangements and data protection protocols as well as accusations of mismanagement

Charity Commission investigation into Help for Heroes has concluded that the armed forces charity has made progress strengthening its governance arrangements and number of other processes after the regulator received a string of complaints.

The case report, published today, details the commission’s response to allegations, which were reported to the commission in 2014 and covered in the national media in 2015, about the services provided at one of the charity’s recovery centres, which is run by its sister charity Help for Heroes Recovery.

Among the allegations – most of which the commission found the charity had already been working on – were concerns about the governance of the recovery centre, Tedworth House, in Wiltshire.

These included claims that there were no safeguarding policies for adults or children and no complaints policy for veterans, and that no risk assessments were carried out on beneficiaries.

Accusations of mismanagement and poor control at the charity were also investigated by the commission. These centred on claims that employees who raised concerns about its policies had been bullied and there had been pay-offs to staff members, which the commission found totalled £158,000 since 2012.

The regulator said the pay-offs were contractual matters that it could not become involved in, although trustees must ensure they make decisions in the best interest of the charity in such cases. 

The commission said it requested further information about the charity's decision-making in the settlements and found trustees followed the correct procedure and had made changes to protect it from any further claims. 

The commission made no further mention of the bullying allegations. 

The regulator also looked into a claim that there was a lack of confidential data protocols at Tedworth House after a serving soldier filed a complaint with the charity about a potential breach of confidential medical details. The charity submitted a serious incident report to the commission but it decided that the trustees had acted appropriately and so took no further action. 

On the governance concerns at Tedworth House, the regulator found that Help for Heroes and Help for Heroes Recovery did have the appropriate policies in place and had begun a review in consultation with third party experts including the Social Care Institute of Excellence.

But the commission also found it was "not clear" these policies were being used, with some policies "marked as draft" and not "added to the health and safety manual used in both charities".

The regulator said it issued formal regulatory advice and told the trustees of both charities to "continue their work undertaking a review of management and governance policies and to continue involving external experts in the field to assist the review and subsequent implementation". 

The commission says in conclusion that it is "satisfied" that the trustees of the charity have taken the appropriate steps to address its regulatory concerns.

Alex Scott-Barrett, chairman of Help for Heroes, said: "The trustees started a series of governance reforms prior to our engagement with the commission and we are pleased it has recognised our work on policies and procedures. The commission concluded its review in June and made it clear that we had all the right guidelines in place.

"We are committed to doing our best for our veterans and are glad the report shows that we are always striving to improve the support we give to those who rely on us."

David Holdsworth, chief operating officer at the Charity Commission, said: "This case shows that where serious concerns are raised regarding a charity that the commission will take action to resolve them. In this case the charity worked with us to resolve the issues raised regarding its governance.

"Where charities grow over time it is important that their governance keeps pace with the changes to their charity. We advise charities to regularly review their governance procedures to ensure that they are fit for purpose."

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