Raleigh International closes with immediate effect

Almost 50 jobs have been lost and young people who have spent months fundraising for expeditions have had them cancelled at short notice

The volunteering charity Raleigh International Trust has gone into voluntary liquidation with the loss of almost 50 jobs.

The charity said in a statement that it was closing with immediate effect after government cuts to the foreign aid budget and the impact of Covid-19 “had an irreversible impact” on its finances.

Raleigh International’s income fell by more than half between 2016/17 and 2019/20, from £8.6m to £3.9m, according to the charity’s annual accounts.

Its income from government contracts also nearly halved between 2017/18 and 2019/20, from £4.4m to £2.4m.

The charity recorded a deficit of £1.1m in 2019/20 and was using its reserves to fund the organisation through “a period of uncertainty”, the latest accounts say.

By December 2020, its free reserves were just £294,000.

The charity said it was aware that some volunteers had fundraised for their own overseas volunteering trips and donated that money to Raleigh International, only for those trips to be cancelled.

It said that “legal advice is being sought” on this issue.

Matt Stevenson-Dodd, managing director of Trust Impact, a consultancy that helps charities with impact and data, told Third Sector that his son had raised almost £4,000 towards a volunteering expedition to Costa Rica next month, only for the trip to be cancelled without warning due to the charity’s closure.

The money had already been given to Raleigh International.

He said the family had only heard about the charity ceasing operations after a friend saw the news on its website.

“We thought Raleigh International would be a reliable choice because of its reputation and the social impact it achieves from its volunteering,” said Stevenson-Dodd.

“There are many young people all across the country in the same position now.

“It is so sad that so many young people who were ready to go out into the world to make a difference after spending a large proportion of their teenage years isolated in lockdown have had this opportunity taken away from them now.”

The charity said it was announcing its closure “with enormous sadness”.

It said in a statement: “Despite our team’s intensive fundraising efforts, continuous hard work and ongoing cost-saving measures in the face of increased economic pressures, we have been advised that the charity is insolvent.

“Regrettably, the combination of dramatically reduced funding and foreign aid, plus the legacy of two years of delayed or cancelled programmes, due to the Covid-19 global pandemic and its associated overseas travel restrictions, have had an irreversible impact.”

The legal firm Carter Backer Winter is handling the liquidation.

All Raleigh International employees have been made redundant, the charity confirmed. A spokeswoman said this affected 47 people.

Raleigh International said: “We appreciate this news will come as a devastating blow to our volunteers and supporters.

“The team at Raleigh International are extremely proud of the positive impact we have made over the years to help communities across the world, and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone – from volunteers and staff to communities, project partners and funders – who have supported our work.”

The charity said it hoped that one of its Scottish programmes could still take place through a partner organisation this summer.

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