Debts, strike action and ‘damage’ at one of London’s oldest DPOs


theweeksubDisabled employees of one of the capital’s oldest disabled people’s organisations have gone on strike because they haven’t been paid for four months.

The future of Brent Association of Disabled People (BADP) is now seriously in doubt because of concerns about the way it has been run, while it is believed to owe tens of thousands of pounds in tax and interest payments to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

BADP was funded by Brent council to act as an umbrella body for disabled people in the borough, and to provide advice, but has not been given any funding this year because of its difficulties.

Because two sources of lottery funding have also been withheld, it has made it impossible to pay staff.

Vincent Cox, BADP’s director, was suspended by the board of trustees in December, while both the chair and vice-chair have resigned.

In a statement, Cox said: “Some trustees crossed the line between strategic and operational, causing a lot of damage.

“We have had support from the council and [Brent Council for Voluntary Services] and are now in the process of repairing the damage to get BADP functioning effectively again.

“I believe that with competent responses and action plan, BADP’s position can be corrected quickly.”

He added: “During this entire episode I have attempted to maintain a standard of professionalism that would allow the organisation to recover.”

The Charity Commission’s website shows that BADP’s annual return and accounts for 2011-2012 are now 175 days overdue.

Jean Brewer, a trustee and formerly BADP’s company secretary, said the situation was “very difficult” but that the board were being unfairly “bad-mouthed”.

She said: “I am very sad that we found ourselves in the situation that we are in.”

Brewer said the board had been placed in an impossible position because they had not been given the paperwork they needed relating to the organisation’s three funding streams.

Despite the problems, the organisation – which provides information, advocacy and welfare rights advice – is continuing to provide some services to disabled people in Brent, north-west London.

Jimmy Telesford, an information and advice advocate, who has been with BADP for seven years but is not on strike, said: “It is just a real mess. As a disabled person I don’t want to be unemployed. It is hard enough to get a job at any time. It’s going to be virtually impossible at this time.”

He added: “BADP has had problems with governance for a long time. It has been known by the council and no-one has done anything.

“My hope is that we can carry on providing services because the council are not unhappy with the services, they are just unhappy with the governance.”

Telesford has contacted the Charity Commission, the council and HMRC in a bid to save the organisation and its services.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “Concerns have recently been raised with the commission regarding Brent Association of Disabled People… and the financial management of the charity by the trustees.

“The commission is currently looking at these concerns to determine whether there is regulatory action for us to take.”

She added: “We expect trustees to always act in the best interests of the charity and ensure that it is able to fulfil its charitable purpose.

“It is trustees that are responsible for the daily management and administration of a charity and the commission cannot intervene in this.

“However, when concerns are raised about the actions of the trustees, we will carefully consider the evidence provided before determining what, if any, next steps should be taken.”

A Brent council spokeswoman said: “The council is aware that BADP has encountered some governance and financial difficulties.

“The council has not funded the organisation in 2013-2014… (The council’s) executive agreed in July to seek alternative interim service provision and also commission further service provision from 1 April 2014.”

A spokesman for Brent CVS said they had been supporting BADP, but could not give further details for reasons of confidentiality.

But he said: “As with any charity, we would say that if there are too many liabilities it may be better to close down and re-start. By definition, a charity is not allowed to be in debt.”

An HMRC spokesman said: “For legal reasons, we cannot discuss individual taxpayer affairs.

“Anyone who is struggling to pay an HMRC debt should call us. HMRC has an outstanding track record in supporting those who are experiencing genuine difficulty paying their debts, and this approach will continue.”

25 July 2013