Regulator to ask charity how it will use funds raised for Ashya King's medical treatment

The five-year-old was the subject of media attention when his parents removed him from a UK hospital and took him to Spain; Kids 'n' Cancer UK said it would pay for treatment he couldn't get here

Ashya King
Ashya King

The Charity Commission will ask the charity Kids ‘n’ Cancer UK how it will spend money originally raised to pay for specialist cancer treatment for Ashya King, the British boy whose parents were arrested in Spain in August after removing him from a UK hospital.

The case of the five-year-old was the subject of national and international attention in the summer after his parents were arrested for taking him from a hospital in Southampton and thence to Spain to seek treatment not available on the NHS.

On their release, the family went to Prague in the Czech Republic, and last month the NHS said it would pay for the proton therapy treatment King had begun receiving.

The Derbyshire charity Kids ‘n’ Cancer, which has objects of relieving sickness and providing support to and advancing the education of children suffering from cancer, offered to pay £100,000 towards proton therapy treatment when the case first hit the news.

"We didn’t know Prague was going to happen; we’d have preferred for them to go Jacksonville or Oklahoma in the US because we have experience working in those places," Mike Hyman, chief executive of the charity, told Third Sector.

Hyman said he was then contacted by Sanjay Ganatra, who had started a JustGiving page to raise money for Kids‘n’Cancer to pay for King’s treatment. The page had a fundraising target of £100,000 and said that any excess would be spent elsewhere by Kids ‘n’ Cancer. It was shut down yesterday, having raised slightly more than £50,000.

Separately, the Kings’ older son Naveed used his YouTube channel to encourage the public to donate money directly to the family's private bank account. Hyman said he understood that the family had raised more than £200,000 – this included money paid into that account, £100,000 from an individual major donor, £25,000 from the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo and £30,000 paid to the family by other charities.

Hyman said the family had then emailed him asking for the charity to give them the money to be used for legal expenses. Hyman said: "We can’t do that; our terms and conditions are about helping people get treated and supporting them while they’re doing that." He said he would meet the charity’s trustees on Friday afternoon to discuss what to do with the £50,000.

"At the end of the day, the charity would have paid for Ashya’s treatment if nothing else had been raised," Hyman said. "Nobody knew the health services would have backtracked. We would have paid for this boy’s treatment and living costs."

Ganatra said he had taken down the JustGiving page because he had been the subject of online abuse, which caused him stress and strained his already ill health. "I’ve got nothing to hide and Kids ‘n’ Cancer has nothing to hide," he said.

A spokeswoman for the commission said: "We are aware of media reports concerning funds raised by the charity Kids ‘n’ Cancer UK for the treatment of Ashya King. We will be requesting information from the trustees about how much was raised by the Ashya King appeal and how the funds will be used, because it appears that the funds are no longer needed to fund Ashya’s medical treatment."

The spokeswoman said that the commission had guidance on its website for trustees to follow "when appeals don’t go to plan".

The commission has a case open on the charity, involving its fundraising practices and financial controls. "These concerns were raised with us by members of the public and are separate to the issues concerning the Ashya King appeal," the commission spokeswoman said. "We have been working to determine how serious these initial issues are and what our next regulatory steps will be."

Hyman said these complaints came from disgruntled former staff. "There are no financial irregularities; our accounts are audited," he said.

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