Ex-fundraiser criticises St Mungo's after contracting tuberculosis

Role was assessed as 'low risk' so inoculation was not recommended, says charity's HR director

Sam Clare
Sam Clare

- This story has been clarified: please see final paragraph

A former street fundraiser has criticised St Mungo’s after he contracted the lung disease tuberculosis while working as a temporary fundraiser for the homelessness charity.

Sam Clare, 33, said he should have been warned about the risk of catching the disease but the charity’s policy, which recommends that front-line staff working with homeless people should be inoculated against the disease, did not cover him.

Clare told Third Sector that he worked for St Mungo’s between January and August this year, when part of his role involved visiting the projects the charity ran for homeless people to help the fundraisers he was training to understand more about the charity.

In March Clare was feeling very ill and went to see his GP who, on hearing that he'd been in contact with homeless people, recommended he be tested for TB. In September, he was diagnosed with the disease.

About a month later, he said, he learned that St Mungo’s had a policy to recommended that some staff should receive TB inoculations – but as a temporary fundraiser he was not covered by it.

"I was never warned about it," he said. "I’ve never been so angry in my life because this could have been prevented."

Clare said he was concerned that he might have passed the disease on to other street fundraisers who were still working for the charity and meeting the public.

Sue Virgoe, executive director for human resources at St Mungo’s, said it recommended to all front-line staff that they should get inoculated for tuberculosis, but did not do the same for fundraising staff.

"Every role is risk-assessed," she said. "This role was assessed as low risk because it involved only low contact with service users."

Virgoe said fundraisers were inducted with a day of initial training, which included a module on health and safety. The risk of contracting tuberculosis was "briefly mentioned", she said.

"But we don’t need to go into detail because it is so low risk," she said. "If that risk level changed, we would change our approach. But at the present time there are no other incidents of tuberculosis."

Virgoe said the charity had not changed its procedures since Clare had contracted tuberculosis, but it had distributed leaflets on TB to all of its temporary fundraisers.

She said the charity had also given the contact details of all of the fundraisers Clare had worked with to the NHS in case it wanted to screen them for TB. So far, no one had been called forward for screening, she said.

"We’re sorry Sam has become unwell," Virgoe said. "But it may not have been connected to his work here."

- Clare worked as a temporary fundraising trainer and manager, not as a fundraiser as the story states. He also first visited his GP in August.

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