RSPCA tops list of Charity Commission's 'most complained-about charities'

The regulator opened six complaints cases against the animal charity in the year to March; the Royal British Legion was second with five

RSPCA headquarters

The Charity Commission opened more complaint cases about the RSPCA than any other charity last year, with the Royal British Legion the second most complained-about charity.

The six registered complaints against the animal charity, down from 18 last year, are revealed in the regulator’s response to a request made by Third Sector under the Freedom of Information Act.

The numbers refer to the volume of complaints followed up by the regulator rather than the number of actual complaints, many of which are not recorded because they are immediately deemed to be outside the commission’s remit.

Alongside the RSPCA and the Royal British Legion, the Global Warming Policy Foundation also featured among the most complained-about charities in both 2012/13 and 2013/14.

The Novalis Trust, which runs education and care services for young people and adults with special educational needs, was top of the list in 2013, with the RSPCA in second.

For the year ending 31 March 2014, the nine charities with the most complaint cases opened were:

1 The RSPCA (six complaints)
2 The Royal British Legion (five)
3 The Canal & River Trust (four)
4 The Ashdown Forest Trust, the British Kidney Patient Association, the Eastbourne Islamic Cultural Centre, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Jane Henderson Foundation and Roedean School (three each).

The commission provided only the top nine charities for 2012/13 because a large number had been the subject of two complaint cases.

For 2012/13, the figures were:

1 The Novalis Trust (20 complaints)
2 RSPCA (18)
3 The GWPF (six)
4 The Autumn Group, the League against Cruel Sports, the Royal British Legion, the RSPB, Rydal Penrhos School, the Terrence Higgins Trust and Choices, Education, Lifelong Learning, Skills (three each).

Liam Carroll, complaints and freedom of information manager at the Charity Commission, said: "The number of complaints received about a charity would not necessarily mean that the charity had acted wrongly or contrary to its charitable purpose."

The reason for this, he said, was that a case might be opened into something that turns out not to fall within the commission’s regulatory remit. Beneficiaries often complained to the commission when a charity changed the way its services were provided, for example, he said.

The numbers provided did not include formal inquiries conducted under section 46 of the Charities Act 2011, "complaints received about charities dealt with in the context of cases that were primarily about other issues" or telephone complaints where no further action was required, said Carroll.

A spokeswoman for the RSPCA said: "For a charity that receives more than a million calls to its cruelty and advice line every year and investigates more than 150,000 complaints of alleged cruelty every year, this is a minute amount."

The spokeswoman  said that the fall in complaints between 2013 and 2014 "proves the RSPCA listens to feedback we receive from the public and continues to strive to make improvements year on year".

- This article was corrected on 16 June 2014 to rectify a mistake in the number of complaints received about the Novalis Trust in 2012/13.

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