This article is a follow-up to a previous entry entitled ‘The Transplant Trust (formerly Transplants in Mind) – What Happened?’. I would recommend reading the previous article before reading this one.
After writing my previous entry on the fate of The Transplant Trust, I received several interesting comments and consequently undertook some additional research the charity’s fate, trying hard to pin down precisely what happened between the 2008/2009 and 2009/2010 financial years (running April-March of those respective years), that resulted in the calamitous fall of a charity that had hitherto been running for almost 20 years.
An addendum to my previous article noted a report by Third Sector on court action that was levied against The Transplant Trust in order to recover an unpaid £3650 PR bill for National Transplant Week (NTW) in 2009.
My previous assumption, based on this entry at the Charities Commission website, is that the charity had ceased operation by March of 2009, but the aforementioned Third Sector report refers to the NTW held in July of 2009. Clearly the charity was still running at this point, and its purported closure date appears to have been specified simply to coincide with the end of the 08/09 financial year. More digging was clearly needed, and after an extremely helpful and informative call to the Charities Commission, I can relate the following:
Two charitable entities under the name ‘The Transplant Trust’ exist. These are distinct, seperate organisations that have been founded with individual mandates and governance. Specifically:
1001374 – The Transplant Trust, was registered as a Charitable Trust in 1990, and it is this organisation which ceased operation in March 2009. Their activities are listed as:
Supporting research into clinical aspects of transplantation. Tissue engineering of chondrocytes and bone marrow stem cells were two main areas supported during this financial year.
1095611 – The Transplant Trust, was registered as a Membership Organisation (run under a constitution) in 2003, and according to the Charities Commission is still registered. Their activities are listed as:
THE RELIEF OF SICKNESS AND DISTRESS BY THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE SUPPLY OF HUMAN ORGANS FOR TRANSPLANTATION THROUGH THE PROMOTION OF HUMAN ORGAN AND TISSUE DONATION AND THE ADVANCEMENT OF PUBLIC EDUCATION, IN PARTICULAR THROUGH THE PROVISION OF RESEARCH AND THE PUBLICATION OF THAT RESEARCH. RAISING AWARENESS BY RUNNING NATIONAL TRANSPLANT WEEK, THE DONOR BUS AND DONOR DAYS.
It is clear that these two entities were both the same overall organisation, with the former apparently having a more clinical research focus. The one set of public accounts still available for this charity for the 05/06 financial year which notes a turnover that just surpasses £26,000. The accounts for a charity are only published publicly in the event their gross turnover exceeds £25,000, and so it would seem this was the only year on record where this criteria was met. Any other accounts held below this threshold, while not public, should still be obtainable via a Freedom of Information request to the Charities Commission, and so I provide the results here for information:
Arguably the most revealing result from this request was a letter to the Charities Commission in February 2009 that declares the cessation of The Transplant Trust (1001374) and to transfer its assets to ‘Transplants in Mind[sic] 1095611’.
Looking at these accounts we can see the steady decrease of turnover and activity supporting the ‘clinical aspects of transplantation’, as specified in its founding mandate, since the formal creation of the second Transplant Trust member organisation in 2003. It’s interesting that it is this which has officially ceased, and not the second, more public face of the charity with which all of its supporters will be familiar. To clarify, I refer to the part which had the website, the donor bus, and which ran and received government funding for National Transplant Week. One charity had a turnover that didn’t exceed £25k, and the second (the Membership Organisation), had a turnover of more than £150k.
As far as the Charities Commission is concerned, this organisation still technically exists, albeit with Accounts and Annual Returns that are heavily over due for the 2008-2009 financial year, although I have recently noticed that an Annual Return (but not accounts) has been returned for the 2009-2010 year as of 26th January 2011. I enclose a screenshot of the Charity Commission entry for The Transplant Trust (1095611) as I see it today:
Here we see a huge leap in income to £285k (up from £107k in 2008), albeit with £296k of spending putting the charity further into deficit. As these figures are somewhat incongruent to the known activity of the charity since 2009, I can only speculate that this figure is a combination of the financial years 08/09 and 09/10. Although why it would be presented in this way is not evident.
The question of ‘What Happened?’ is still as mystifying as it was, however I am penning this update primarily because several weeks ago I sent another Freedom of Information request to the Department of Health, who, to remind you, provided significant amounts of public funding to support The Transplant Trust’s activities, including National Transplant Week.
My request, and the responses to which, were as follows:
|Request 1: The amount and type of funding provided to the charity since its creation (c. 1991), summarised by year up to and including the charity’s last year of operation.
Response 1: Organisation name – Transplants in Mind – for a project called National Transplant week.
For a second project called – Donor Day – they received 3-years grant as follows:
In 2008/09 we funded £84,000 to Transplant Trust to promote National Transplant Week 2009 and identify the most appropriate and effective medium to reach the under 25s demographic and implement an initiative to target this group to increase the number of people on the Organ Donation Register. In 2009/2010 we funded £7,500 to publish a Transplant book written about the experiences of those waiting for a transplant.
Request 2: All documentation, including memos, emails, and other communications as appropriate that discuss or otherwise investigate the closure of the charity in 2009.
Response 2: DH had no dealings with the charity re their closure, but please see correspondence annexed below where, on hearing that Transplant Trust was facing financial difficulty, we wrote to John Wallwork asking for confirmation that DH funding was not going to be used for redundancy payments. I also attach the charity’s funding report that they sent to DH giving a breakdown of their proposals, and two award letters to Time for the Funding of National Transplant Week from 2000/2001.
Note that we have redacted the names and direct contact details of officials who are not Senior Civil Servants or otherwise persons in the public domain, in accordance with s40(2) of the FOIA, which relates to the personal data of living individuals whose release would be in breach of the Data Protection Principles as set out under the Data Protection Act.
Request 3: Information on the intended future distribution of the funds that would have otherwise been granted to the charity had it continued in operation. i.e. Has or will this been re-apportioned to a similar charity/project in future.
Response 3: We hold no recorded information which would address your question about ‘the intended future distribution of the funds that would have otherwise been granted to the charity had it continued in operation. i.e. Has or will this been re-apportioned to a similar charity/project in future.’
The department within the Department of Health that deals with Freedom of Information requests is deserving of serious criticism. My request was handled so incredibly badly that as of today I still have not received the specific items of documentation that relate to my original request. In their first response they referenced documents but did not provide them, even when they explicitly state that they had been included. I have asked for the charity’s funding report which they noted in ‘Response 2’ more than once, but my requests are seemly dealt with people of surpassing incompetence and illiteracy. My original request to their department was made on the 3rd December 2010, and they have far exceeded the 20 working days allocated by law to respond to such requests.
When I pointed out that the documents they referenced had not been included, they insisted on treating this as a new Freedom of Information request, thereby giving them another 20 working days to correct their error. That would be bad enough had their eventual response not once again omitted the information requested. Eventually I was sent this PDF document, which is a mish-mash of referenced material with no good explanation of what is included. The DoH then insisted this was the entirety of the information they held, despite that clearly not being the case. I have again appealed to them for records pertaining to the funding given over the course of the time period requested, and again I’ve been given yet another FOI reference number. It seems to me that this constant generation of new reference numbers is simply a way of fudging their response statistics. They can respond to a singular FOI request poorly, close it, and if anyone has any follow-up queries about the paucity of information provided, they merely open up a new reference and respond to that within their 20 days. By opening and closing multiple references for what is ultimately ONE request, I imagine it would be very easy to make it look like the department was responding to 100% of all requests on time.
So I apologise if the information above is not as detailed as it might be, and I will update this article should the DoH manage to grind together enough braincells to comprehend which documents they still need to send me.
In any case, some scraps of this information were useful. I was particularly interested in the nature of the £7500 provided for the publication of a ‘Transplant book’. I can only assume it refers to this website and while there is a scant mention of The Transplant Trust, there is nothing that mentions them as a source of funding for its publication. I will enquire directly to the author and update this article with any information.
A Stumbling Summary
The situation remains rather unclear. The aspect of the charity dealing with research was wound up in early 2009 with any remaining assests transferred to the second charity at that time. The second charity has been missing in action since mid-2009. It has no website, it no longer accepts donations, its Just Giving membership has expired, and yet still technically appears to exist. The recent Annual Return that now appears on the CC website merely adds to the intrigue.
The donor bus, noted in my previous article, is allegedly still run by Ray Pearson, the ex-Donor Bus Manager of the Transplant Trust, under the name ‘Brightside of Life charity’. This is not a charity that is registered with the Charities Commission (which it would be obligated to do if it had a turnover of greater than £5000), and it has no significant online presence that makes mention of the bus’ activities. As far as I can work out the donor bus is also not part of any other larger charity connected to transplantation. If the closure letter referenced above is to be believed, the bus along with any other assets should still technically remain the property of the remaining Transplant Trust charity.
Many questions still need to be answered. What is actually going on? Will the charity attempt to rise from the ashes and overcome its continued financial woe? Will their website be restored to operation? Will there be a public statement as to the fate of the charity? And most critically, who is organising National Transplant Week in 2011?
I will continue to post any information that becomes available, and comments remain welcome.