A single fund dedicated to supporting victims in the aftermath of terrorist attacks should be established to prevent fundraising fraud, a group of terror attack survivors has said.
Survivors Against Terror, a group founded by survivors of terrorist attacks and relatives of those who died in them, has published a report today warning that the public’s generous response to such attacks, which often involve many people setting up individual online fundraising pages, is often diverted by fraud or lack of planning.
The fund, the report says, "would be managed by a small secretariat and would distribute money both to individuals affected and to organisations providing the support services that they might need".
The fund should be ready to go live within hours of any attack and supported by broadcasters and social media companies to attract donors, the report says.
Travis Frain, a member of the Survivors Against Terror steering group, who was seriously injured in the Westminster Bridge attack in March last year, said: "When terror strikes, British people want to help. One of our first instincts after attacks is to raise money to help those affected, but the present system is broken.
"Each attack sees multiple fundraising responses, some real, some fake, some high-profile, some more amateur. Too often it feels like pot luck who gets help and who doesn’t.
"As a result, the public don’t know how to help, fraud has been facilitated and money is not being spent efficiently."
Lack of support had forced Frain and others like him to rely on student loans and the goodwill of close friends and family to pay for counselling and treatment, he said.
After the Manchester bombing on 22 May last year, the Charity Commission warned that con artists were trying to exploit the public’s generosity for fraudulent purposes, the report says, noting that JustGiving had placed more than 200 accounts in quarantine, and after the London Bridge attack it deleted three appeals and placed 43 in quarantine.
There is a danger not only of money being lost to the fraud itself, but also that people will be put off giving by the risk of fraud, the report warns.
And, it says, although the people who set up appeals might have goodwill and honest intentions, there is no clear plan or understanding of how best to distribute the funds.
"There may, for example, be many people caught up in an attack who need ongoing psychological and emotional counselling, but who don’t have any physical injuries and therefore wouldn’t qualify for direct support," the report says.
"In order to distribute funding fairly and effectively, there needs to be a degree of infrastructure in place to make that happen."
After the terrorist attacks last year, in a blog for the Third Sector, Sarah Miller, former head of press and public affairs at the Charity Commission, called for the formation of a domestic DEC.
The Charity Commission brought together representatives from a range of groups including the Fundraising Regulator, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the British Red Cross, JustGiving and GoFundMe to discuss the sector’s response to such crises.
They agreed to develop a framework for coordinating a swift, efficient and meaningful response to future domestic crises such as terrorist attacks or major disasters, but stopped short of forming a new charity.