Red Cross in same sex marriage dispute | Additions to lobbying guidance welcomed | Samaritans app suspended

Plus: Two breast cancer charities to merge | Hurd appointed to bill scrutiny committee | Employees wrote to BeatBullying trustees to voice concerns

Bryan Barkley
Bryan Barkley

Four Conservative MPs are calling for the British Red Cross to reinstate a volunteer who was dismissed after he staged a one-man protest against same-sex marriage. An early day motion was tabled in parliament last week regarding long-serving volunteer Bryan Barkley, who stood outside Wakefield Cathedral holding a sign with the words "No Same Sex Marriage" on the first day when gay marriages took place in the UK. The charity said it only acts when an employee's views interfere with impartial delivery of services.

The suicide prevention charity Samaritans has suspended its controversial Samaritans Radar app after a petition claiming it breached the Data Protection Act attracted more than 1,200 signatures. In a statement, Joe Ferns, Samaritans’ executive director of policy, research and development, apologised to anyone who had been caused distress by the app, which was designed to alert Twitter users when someone they followed might be feeling depressed. Ferns also said the charity would engage in a dialogue with the mental health sector and other partners in order to evaluate the feedback they have received and test potential adaptations.

The Electoral Commission has released a document detailing 22 changes to its guidance on complying with the lobbying act, which was originally published in July but had been criticised as being unclear and unhelpful. The new guidance, which has been welcomed by charity experts, covers topics including the use of social media; how a campaign raising awareness of an issue is treated by the commission; and what happens if a political party decides to support, oppose or debate a view that has been promoted by a charity on a particular issue.

The charities Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Breast Cancer Campaign have announced that they intend to merge next year to form the UK’s largest breast cancer charity. The two organisations said they had similar strategic aims and that the move would enable more funds to be invested in research into breast cancer prevention and treatment.

The former charities minister Nick Hurd has been appointed to a new joint committee of MPs and peers that will hear evidence on the draft Protection of Charities Bill, which will give tougher powers to the Charity Commission. The committee will be chaired by crossbench peer Lord Hope of Craighead, and is expected to issue a call for written evidence on the bill this month before holding a number of oral evidence sessions.

A group of whistleblowers wrote to the trustees of BeatBullying towards the end of October to alert of them of possible mismanagement of the charity, Third Sector has learned. In a letter dated 20 October, the group of current and former staff members accused the charity, which went into voluntary liquidation last Friday, of breaching employment contracts, failing in their duty of care to employees, not operating proper financial controls, and failing to keep pension contributions up to date, among other concerns.

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