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Monday, January 07, 2013

In defence of the most complained about charity

There is an old adage that if you are not being complained about then you are not doing your job properly. So how are we to interpret today's Telegraph article that records that the RSPCA, the biggest animal welfare charity in Britain, is also one of the country's most complained about charities?

The paper says that the Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, has disclosed that it has received 12 complaints about the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals over the past two years, behind only the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the HFSH Charitable Trust, a spiritual healers charity, with 13 “cases” each, in the two years until March 31 2012.

They add that the RSPCA has been criticised by a judge and reported to the Commission by MPs and peers for controversially funding a successful £326,000 prosecution against Prime Minister David Cameron’s local hunt last month:

Referring specifically to the RSPCA, the Commission said it had “received complaints from different members of the public, primarily about the service provided by the charity, the charity’s activities or general decisions taken by the trustees in the course of their day to day management of the charity”.

It added: “In all instances the Commission felt that the complaints were best addressed by explaining its role and providing general advice and guidance to the complainants on the charity’s position.

The Commission said in its response that “the number of complaints received about a charity would not necessarily mean that that charity had acted wrongly or contrary to its charitable purpose”.

It added that the figures did not offer a “complete picture” of complaints because they did not include formal inquiries under the Charities Act, some telephone complaints to the Commission’s call centre and others dealt with by a specialist team.

One MP takes a different view though. He is Simon Hart, a former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, pro-hunting, pro-badger cull, somebody who one would not expect to be the RSPCA's greatest fan. Mr. Hart says that: “No animal based charity should the subject of so many complaints. It suggests a loss of direction and leadership, and a focus on political ideology at the expense of animal welfare.”

He clearly has a rather narrow view of animal welfare. It is not one I share nor is it one shared by the RSPCA. I am proud of their record and of the fact that they are prepared to stand up against this sort of pressure. At the end of the day it is not the fact that they are being complained against that shows they are doing their job, but who the people are who are making the complaints.
Hear! Hear!
Do not Charities HAVE to be accountable too ? Most operate with no viable mandate at all.
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