In recent days a great deal of media and public attention has focused on CAGE, which describes itself as an advocacy group.
CAGE is not a charity but has been in part funded by British charities. As it is not a charity and given the nature of its work, and the controversy it has attracted, the Charity Commission has been concerned that such funding risked damaging public trust and confidence in charity.
As the regulator of charities, we expect all charities and trustees to ensure that all charitable funds are used according to their charity’s purposes and in the way that the public would expect.
As a result, since December 2013 we have been engaged with two charities, The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and The Roddick Foundation, which have funded CAGE.
We scrutinised each charity’s relationship with CAGE during this period, including analysing whether the grants were appropriate and whether the trustees had ensured that their charitable grants were used for exclusively charitable purposes in line with their charity’s objects.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust confirmed to us that it made grant awards to CAGE of £305,000 between 2007 and 2014. Of this, £271,250 was paid over.
The Roddick Foundation confirmed that it made grant payments to CAGE of £120,000 between 2009 and 2012.
Last week, public statements by CAGE officials heightened concerns about the use of charitable funds to support their activities.
In our view, those statements increased the threat to public trust and confidence in charity and raised clear questions for a charity considering funding CAGE’s activities as to how the trustees of those charities could comply with their legal duties as charity trustees.
In these circumstances, the Commission took robust action and on Monday 2 March 2015 required further unequivocal assurances from the two charities that they have ceased funding CAGE and had no intention of doing so in the future.
The Roddick Foundation provided all the assurances within 24 hours as requested, stating that it has not funded CAGE since December 2012; it gave assurances that it has no further payment pending and no intention or proposal to fund CAGE in the future.
The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust did not provide all the assurances within 24 hours. It did confirm that it last made a grant payment to CAGE in January 2014, that no further payments would be made under the 2011 grant, that no funding proposals were under consideration, that the Trust had no current plans to fund Cage and that no further grants would be made without written consultation with the commission.
However, it did not initially provide an unequivocal assurance that the Trust would not make any future grant to CAGE under any circumstances. Yesterday, the Trust stated that this was an extremely difficult decision to make, but in the interests of all its grantees and the other work of the Trust, the trustees confirmed that they have decided to give the commission an assurance that it will not fund CAGE either now or in the future.
We will conclude our open cases into these two charities shortly and publish a report on the outcome, together with lessons for other charities which fund non-charitable bodies.
In addition, we issued a regulatory alert on 3 March 2015 warning charities to undertake due diligence when making grants.
In the meantime we are glad to repeat to the public that both The Roddick Foundation and The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust have ceased funding CAGE and will not be doing so in future.