FRSB Adjudication on PDSA

The complainant was concerned that their elderly mother had made several high value donations to the charity whilst she was dealing with schizophrenia and not taking her medication. The adjudication was not upheld. The Board concluded that there had been a longstanding relationship with the charity and the donations were not out of character.

Date of adjudication 25 March 2014
Area of complaint Public Collections
Outcome of adjudication Not Upheld

Complainant Summary

The complainant was concerned that their elderly mother had made several high value donations to the charity whilst she was dealing with schizophrenia and not taking her medication; the complainants mother has since died. The complainant feels that the donations should be returned to the family.

Issue

The PDSA had allegedly taken advantage of the complainant’s elderly and vulnerable mother by encouraging her to make several high value donations and the complainant was disappointed by the charity’s decision not to refund the donations.

Basis of adjudication

Possible breach of Section 16.10 clause n of the Institute of Fundraising Code of Practice. Namely;

“Collectors OUGHT NOT to approach individuals that may reasonably be considered to be vulnerable adults.”

Response

Upon receipt of the complaint, the PDSA carried out an internal investigation and its findings were presented to the trustees sitting on the PDSA Council at its June 2013 quarterly meeting. After assessing the case, the trustees concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that pressure was exerted on the complainant’s mother or that the PDSA knew that she was vulnerable and that, as a consequence, it would not be appropriate to refund the donations.

Assessment

The FRSB Board unanimously adjudicated that, based on the evidence put before them, that the complainant’s mother had had a longstanding relationship with the PDSA both as a service user and as a donor. In that context, the FRSB Board concluded that the donations that she made to the PDSA were not out of character.

The FRSB Board concluded that there was insufficient evidence to suggest that the PDSA had known that the complainant’s mother had schizophrenia and, as a consequence, was vulnerable at the time of making the donations. As such, it was determined that the PDSA had not deliberately taken advantage of the complainant’s mother and approaching her for donations was not inappropriate.

The FRSB Board unanimously adjudicated that the PDSA had conducted a thorough and detailed investigation to ascertain whether or not the complainant’s mother had been deliberately taken advantage of and had dealt with subsequent correspondence in a sensitive and considered manner.

Finally, the FRSB Board recognised the tragic circumstances surrounding the case and wished to offer the complainant its sincere condolences.

Action Required

No further action required.

Sector Recommendations

  • It was noted during the adjudication that the IOF Code contained specific and detailed information about working with children but not the elderly
    • Recommendation - It was unanimously agreed that the IOF should consider adding a similar section that covers working with the elderly as this case demonstrated the importance of fundraisers approaching the elderly in a sensitive manner and being extra vigilant whilst making fundraising approaches to elderly individuals. It was felt that such a section would help to safeguard fundraisers and the public alike from any potential issues arising from inappropriate approaches.
  • The FRSB Board noted that the complainant’s key concern was that her mother ought not to have been approached by the PDSA and that it was a mandatory Code requirement only for public collections that fundraisers ought not to approach vulnerable adults in the IOF Code. It was therefore felt that greater Code consistency across all methods of fundraising in relation to vulnerable adults was required.
    • Recommendation – Greater IOF Code consistency across all methods of fundraising in relation to vulnerable adults was required. It was also recommended that more specific guidance to help fundraising organisations better identify vulnerable adults was required.

 The full adjudication report is available in PDF format 

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