Samaritans decides not to make Jeremy Hughes chief executive

Hughes has been at the centre of allegations of bullying behaviour while he was chief of the Alzheimer's Society

Jeremy Hughes
Jeremy Hughes

Samaritans has abandoned the appointment of Jeremy Hughes as its next chief executive after newspaper reports alleged that he displayed bullying behaviour during his time at the Alzheimer’s Society.

The suicide-prevention charity issued a short statement today saying that it “cannot proceed with the appointment” of Hughes, who was due to take up the role in May.

It said the decision was not based on the allegations, which the charity was not in a position to judge.

The charity had faced calls to reverse the appointment of Hughes as its next chief executive after The Guardian ran an article that said the Alzheimer’s Society had spent £750,000 on non-disclosure agreements in recent years.

This was strongly denied by the charity, which also said it had a zero-tolerance policy towards bullying and discrimination and a robust internal complaints procedure.

The Charity Commission has also reopened a 2018 complaint about the Alzheimer’s Society’s handling of staff grievances.

Earlier today, the trade union Unite urged Samaritans not to proceed with Hughes’s appointment because the charity was “in the very early stages of recovering from a toxic bullying culture” and the union did not think Hughes was the right person to “heal the problems the charity has experienced”.

The Samaritans statement said today: “In light of events over the past week, the board of trustees has decided that it cannot proceed with the appointment of Jeremy Hughes as CEO, which was due to start in May.

“This decision is not in any way based on the allegations themselves, which Samaritans is not in a position to judge.”

The statement said the charity would begin a fresh recruitment process for a chief executive “in due course”.

Hughes has held senior roles at charities including Breakthrough Breast Cancer, the British Red Cross and Leonard Cheshire. He was appointed a CBE in 2015.

Hughes won praise in the sector in 2015 for his robust response to a critical article in The Sun newspaper that claimed 50p of every pound donated to the Alzheimer’s Society was spent on staff wages and pensions.

He said The Sun had missed the point of the charity's work and called on sector leaders to help modernise how the media and the public understood the way charities worked.

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