The former president of the National Childbirth Trust has criticised the charity after she and two other trustees were forced to resign in the wake of an inquest into the death of a baby in an NCT-branded cot.
In April 2015, Grace Roseman, a seven-week-old baby, died in an NCT-branded bedside cot produced by Bednest. The charity made a full apology to the Roseman family during the coroner’s inquest into the child’s death, held in December 2016.
A statement on the NCT website from Helen Stephenson, chair of the NCT, said that when the charity co-branded the cot in 2012 "it had been repeatedly certified as complying with safety standards by a leading UK test house" and no individual was to blame for the decision to co-brand the cot.
Despite this, Stephenson said that all trustees at the charity at the time of the decision to co-brand the Bednest cot, including SeánaTalbot, president of the NCT, had been asked to resign.
Talbot resigned as a trustee and as president on 9 December 2016, which she said was "under duress and against my own wishes" in a statement on her Facebook page. Talbot said two other trustees were asked to resign.
Stephenson’s statement said: "After the most careful consideration and extensive discussion, the board of trustees concluded, unanimously and with great regret, that it would not be appropriate for any trustee in place when NCT took the decision to co-brand the Bednest crib to remain as a trustee today. Subsequently, remaining trustees, including NCT president Seána Talbot, were asked to step down from the board.
"Seána has made an enormous contribution to NCT. Seána began her involvement as a volunteer, more recently invigorating the Belfast branch. She went on to become a trustee and then NCT’s president.
"Over the years Seána has made a huge difference to the support available to parents, including pressing for improvements to her local maternity services as a maternity services liaison committee representative and driving work to expand our reach."
Stephenson said the charity had commissioned an external review of its management and governance, with an initial report due in the spring.
But Talbot’s statement said that she was "pressured" into resigning as a trustee and president of the NCT, and claimed she was told in an email from Nick Wilkie, chief executive of the NCT, that her membership of the NCT would be removed if she did not resign, which would have annulled her position on the board.
She said: "In light of the intense pressure I was under, and in order to avoid mass counter-resignations that would have endangered the reputation of the charity, I submitted my resignation as trustee (and therefore as president) on 9 December. I did this under duress and against my own wishes."
In the statement, Talbot said she wrote to the trustees to ask for her reinstatement, but her offer was rejected. Talbot was elected as president of the NCT in 2015 by the charity’s membership.
She said: "The chair expressed disappointment that I would not accept the alternative figurehead ‘president’ role, which the board believed would be a good solution. This was despite the legal advice clearly stating otherwise.
"I remain deeply committed to NCT and I am passionate about what the charity does. I recognise that the trustees were under intense pressure regarding the inquest, which is completely understandable. Their decision-making was, however, undeniably flawed and undermined both the principle of trusteeship and the ethos of a member-led organisation."
In a further statement, Wilkie said: "In all the circumstances of this tragic case and notwithstanding the lack of any blame, the board of trustees at NCT agreed that it would not be appropriate for any trustee in place when NCT took the decision to co-brand the Bednest crib to remain as a trustee today. The board stands by this decision."