Fundraising curbs proposed by Cameron government

Cameron: new legislation
Cameron: new legislation

The government has announced that it would legislate to "protect the vulnerable from aggressive fundraisers and rogue charities" after a series of articles appeared in the Daily Mail newspaper about methods used by some telephone fundraising agencies.

It said it would introduce "tough" amendments to the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill, currently going through parliament, to require all new contracts between charities and fundraising agencies to state how the vulnerable are protected.

The amendments will also require charities with incomes of more than £1m a year to publish details of their fundraising activities in their annual reports, including how many complaints they have received.

Rob Wilson, the Minister for Civil Society, has also asked Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, to lead a review of the self-regulation of fundraising, which will make recommendations in September.

The timeframe for the review is such that further amendments resulting from the review can be included in the charities bill before it clears parliament.

The legislation was announced by David Cameron, the Prime Minister, who said the conduct of some fundraisers was "frankly unacceptable". A government statement said the legislation would require professional fundraisers to set out in fundraising agreements what steps they took to protect vulnerable people from high-pressure fundraising, the best practice they followed and how they monitored compliance.

The move came after a series of stories in the Mail that claimed charities, including Oxfam, the British Red Cross and the NSPCC, and the fundraising agency GoGen were "exploiting loopholes" in the Telephone Preference Service to phone people against their wishes. The paper accused GoGen of being "aggressive, ruthless and cynical", quoting supervisors telling staff to make "more ferocious asks" and that nobody had an excuse not to donate. It claimed that people were asked to donate even after revealing they had dementia.

The Information Commissioner's Office said it would investigate potential data and privacy breaches that had come to light through the Mail's investigation.

A statement from Giuseppe Iantosca and Bob Metrebian, directors of GoGen, said they refuted many of the allegations and would be taking legal advice. The statement said: "At no time do we make calls to any TPS-registered supporter without the full support and permission of the charity in question."

GoGen suspended activities at some of its four call centres after several charities put on hold their work with the agency. Iantosca said some activities had stopped while an independent audit took place.

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