Regulator appoints interim manager to school for autistic children

Hope House School in Newark, Nottinghamshire, has been the subject of a Charity Commission inquiry since October last year

The Charity Commission has appointed an interim manager to run a Nottinghamshire school for children with autism amid concerns about its governance, management and administration.

Hope House School in Newark-on-Trent has been the the subject of a Charity Commission statutory inquiry since October 2017.

That inquiry, which is still ongoing, is examining the charity’s governance, whether the trustees had exercised sufficient oversight and control of the charity, the charity’s financial controls and whether funds had been properly spent on the objects of the charity.

The commission is also investigating whether potential conflicts of interest and connected-party transactions have been properly managed and whether there has been unauthorised trustee benefit.

The commission said today that it made an order on 20 August to appoint Guy Hollander of the accountancy firm Mazars as interim manager, and he would run the school to the exclusion of the trustees.

Hollander said that the charity had "grown considerably over the last few years", but "growth of this nature raises its own issues, which have resulted in concerns over the governance of the charity" and which led to his appointment.

"As interim manager my main objective is to implement a structure that enables a board of trustees to effectively manage and govern the charity," Hollander said.

The commission said that one of the trustees is the school’s principal, who will remain in post in her role as an employee.

The school would continue to run as usual, the commission said, with the new term having begun on Thursday.

Harvey Grenville, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "We were not satisfied that the current governance and administration arrangements were adequately meeting the needs of this charity. This appointment is an important protective measure for the charity and those it was set up to help.

"Part of the interim manager’s duties will be to establish the viability of the charity and determine the most appropriate option regarding its future. He is tasked with ensuring that the charity continues its service provision while he completes his appointment."

Hope House had an income of £909,254 in the year to the end of March 2016 and expenditure of £888,463 during the same period, accounts filed with the regulator show.

When the regulator announced the opening of its inquiry in January, Terri Westmoreland, principal of the school and its founder in 2003, said the charity was aware of a small group of people whom it believed had made a number of complaints about it to regulators including Ofsted, HM Revenue & Customs and environmental health departments, all of which had been satisfied.

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