The Fundraising Regulator’s investigation into practices at the door-to-door fundraising agency Neet Feet has uncovered several serious breaches of the Code of Fundraising Practice, Third Sector understands.
The nature of the breaches, which are understood to be serious in nature, will be revealed next week in the regulator’s first adjudication report.
Neet Feet’s former director Jez O’Neill, who co-founded Neet Feet in 2013 partly to help people who were not in education, employment or training, told Third Sector that he had seen a had seen a "cut-down version" of the regulator's report but that the directors of Neet Feet disputed the findings.
The regulator’s inquiry into Neet Feet began just three days after the body launched on 7 July. It followed an undercover investigation by The Sun newspaper, which alleged that the agency was employing fundraisers who targeted elderly people with aggressive doorstep techniques. The agency closed in July after a number of charities suspended their contracts with the agency and it experienced cash-flow problems.
The Fundraising Regulator said it would not comment until the final report was signed off.
In a statement provided to the regulator, seen by Third Sector, O’Neill and fellow Neet Feet director Sam Bisgrove said that many of the "alleged" breaches of the code that were identified were "open to interpretation".
"The Sun reporter was filming for six weeks and The Sun has given the regulator six hours of footage to review, so it is difficult for the regulator to see the full picture in context," said the statement.
While the statement acknowledges that "clearly there were some problems" at the agency, O’Neill told Third Sector he believed the findings were "just a load of nonsense, all of it."
O’Neill said that the reason a Sun reporter went undercover at the agency in the first place is because someone who worked for another agency urged the newspaper to investigate. "This is a complete set-up," he said.
However, a spokesman for the newspaper said: "The Sun denies all O'Neill's allegations and stands by this story completely and the manner in which the story was conducted," he said. "This was a careful and thorough investigation that revealed serious wrongdoing at Neet Feet, and we look forward to reading the conclusions of the independent Fundraising Regulator when it reports next week."
It emerged yesterday that Neet Feet owes one of its former clients, the charity Action for Children, almost £100,000 in reimbursement payments for people who signed up but never donated. In total, it owes creditors almost £500,000, according to the liquidator’s report.