Warn­ing over ‘fail­ures’ of mil­i­tary char­i­ties

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - By Olivia Rudgard SO­CIAL AF­FAIRS COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Mil­i­tary char­i­ties set up in the af­ter­math of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could be fail­ing to pro­tect “vul­ner­a­ble” veter­ans, the Char­ity Com­mis­sion has warned. The watch­dog said it was con­cerned that some of the char­i­ties were be­ing set up by peo­ple “with good in­ten­tions” but that they were not be­ing run prop­erly. It said it had found a “lack of safe­guard­ing poli­cies and prac­tices” and that some char­i­ties were not check­ing on their work­ers to make sure veter­ans were pro­tected from ex­ploita­tion.

MIL­I­TARY char­i­ties set up in the af­ter­math of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars could be fail­ing to pro­tect veter­ans, the Char­ity Com­mis­sion has warned.

The watch­dog said it was con­cerned that some of the char­i­ties set up to help for­mer mil­i­tary per­son­nel by peo­ple “with good in­ten­tions” were not be­ing run prop­erly.

In a re­port re­leased to­day, the com­mis­sion said its in­quiries sug­gested that some char­i­ties did not con­sider users with men­tal health prob­lems as a re­sult of serv­ing in the forces to be “vul­ner­a­ble”.

It said it had found a “con­cern­ing lack of safe­guard­ing poli­cies and prac­tices” and that some char­i­ties were fail­ing to carry out DBS checks on their work­ers to make sure vul­ner­a­ble veter­ans were pro­tected from ex­ploita­tion.

The in­quiry – which was prompted by “re­ports in lo­cal and na­tional me­dia and on so­cial me­dia” about poor prac­tice in mil­i­tary char­i­ties – sug­gested that “mil­i­tary char­i­ties ap­peared to be at greater risk of com­pli­ance and rep­u­ta­tional is­sues, which could af­fect public trust”.

One ex­am­ple was the Ex­cal­ibur Unit, a char­ity pro­vid­ing prac­ti­cal, emo­tional and fi­nan­cial sup­port for ser­vice per­son­nel past and present. It had em­ployed an out­side fundraiser and there had been com­plaints from the public about “ag­gres­sive” tac­tics, as well as con­cerns that much of the money that the fundraiser brought in was not go­ing to the char­ity it­self.

The com­mis­sion found that 80 per cent of money raised through the sale of mer­chan­dise was re­tained by the fundraiser and it had “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about the im­pact of the com­plaints on the char­ity’s rep­u­ta­tion. It added that the trustees had re­cently de­cided to wind it up en­tirely.

The re­port said Standeasy Mil­i­tary Sup­port, which helps veter­ans with men­tal is­sues, only im­ple­mented DBS checks for a vol­un­teer after the com­mis­sion’s in­ter­ven­tion. It added that “most of the mil­i­tary char­i­ties we en­gaged with did not have ad­e­quate poli­cies in place to deal with com­plaints”.

Michelle Rus­sell, di­rec­tor of in­ves­ti­ga­tions, mon­i­tor­ing and en­force­ment at the com­mis­sion, said: “Some veter­ans may be po­ten­tially vul­ner­a­ble for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons and char­i­ties set up to help them must make car­ing for them, and pro­tect­ing them, a pri­or­ity. The public would be rightly con­cerned if veter­ans were ex­posed to harm.”

Gen­eral Sir John Mccoll, ex­ec­u­tive chairman of the Confederation of Ser­vice Char­i­ties, said: “We strongly sup­port the scru­tiny of safe­guard­ing and fundrais­ing prac­tices. The confederation strives for the high­est of stan­dards amongst its mem­ber­ship.”

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