The Westminster Commission on Autism needs YOU!

Westminster Commission on Autism

The Westminster Commission on Autism is a new group made up of parliamentarians, autistic individuals, parent advocates, health professionals, charities and service providers etc.  The group was set up in recognition of the fact that there is always more to be done to make the world a more autism-friendly place.  The commission will hold inquiries, write reports and make recommendations for policy and practice.

On the 1st December 2015, the core group met and discussedareas for inquiry.  A range of topics were considered including diagnosis, employment, familysupport and mental health.  It was felt that a strong first inquiry topic would be access to healthcare. 

It is critically important that the commission is informed, guided and verified by autistic people and while a number of members are either autistic or parents,we want to reach out to many more than this. 

We are looking to achieve this via…

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Many parents ‘never talk about mental health’ to children | Disability UK Blog

The BBC Health News reports that: More than half of parents in England have never spoken to their children about stress, anxiety or depression, a survey has suggested. A poll of more than 1,100 par…

Source: Many parents ‘never talk about mental health’ to children | Disability UK Blog

NCIA to close but voluntary groups say the fight will continue

Original post from National Coalition for Independent Action

‘……………… by

Make-or-break-time for charities and the voluntary sector

After nearly 10 years the National Coalition for Independent Action is closing down. In an act of defiance not defeat, NCIA believes that now is the time to make space for new forms of opposition to the stifling co-option of charities and voluntary services groups as servants of state and private sector interests.

IMG_20151030_0009-300x162In a final gesture, NCIA today published an excoriating analysis of the current situation Our Last Word: Fighting for the Soul of Voluntary Action. This sets out the scale of damage done to independent voluntary action from successive government policies with the complicity of many in the sector, and a call to arms to regain the impetus to speak out for service users, beneficiaries and vulnerable communities.


And in a message of solidarity, 65 voluntary groups – including activist groups, local service organisations, CVSs, academics and national bodies such as Children England, the Refugee Council, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Unite the Union – have pledged in an open letter to:

“….. advance NCIA perspectives for voluntary groups independent from, and unfettered by, powerful outside interests, and committed to stand visibly and practically in solidarity with those facing injustices; to speak plainly about these injustices; and campaign vigorously for their end. “

In a statement issued today, Penny Waterhouse, Co-Convenor of NCIA said:

“The future of charities and voluntary groups as an independent force for social change looks bleaker than at any other time. Why is it a surprise to anyone that public trust has fallen and so much reputational damage done? When charities outsource fundraising to harass donations out of people, compete aggressively for a share of privatised public services and form partnerships with profit-hungry global corporations, it is no wonder that the public has become cynical and suspicious.  And it is no surprise that government is targeting the campaigning work of charities, in efforts to shut down opposition to the policies that are damaging millions of poor and vulnerable people.

Back in 2006 when we started, our message – that voluntary groups were losing their independence and must fight back – was seen as scare mongering and off beam. The truth of this has now been accepted throughout the voluntary sector, with the consequences only too visible. NCIA does not need to make the case any longer; nobody can say they have not been warned.

But NCIA cannot rescue voluntary groups from the mess they are now in – only they can do it, if they so choose. So we have decided to stop and we leave with pride and gratitude. The future lies with new alliances and ways of organising amongst voluntary and community groups, activists, unions, academics and others determined to halt the erosion of our social protections, the rise of gross inequality, the worship of profit and the demonisation of those damaged by such ideologies.”  

The full text of the open letter reads:

Open letter about the closure of the National Coalition of Independent Action

Poverty, homelessness and inequality are increasing at break-neck speeds. Safety nets, rights and services are being eroded. Mean-spirited policies stalk the streets. Protest is on the increase. So we, the undersigned, are sorry to hear that the National Coalition of Independent Action (NCIA) is closing down.

Over the last 10 years NCIA has rung an alarm bell alerting us to the progressive silencing of charities and voluntary groups as a force to resist the impoverishment of people and communities, the loss of rights and the privatisation of public services. Whilst we have not always agreed with NCIA’s positions, its voice has been essential in reminding us of the duty to dissent within civil society. A duty often lost in the clamour for public service contracts and insider influence.

But, as NCIA’s closing statement says, “something else is needed to occupy the space we have taken”.  In particular, NCIA calls for continuing the alliances built between voluntary services, activists, unions, academics and others determined to halt the erosion of social protections, the rise of gross inequality, the worship of profit and the demonisation of those damaged by such ideologies – both inside and outside the UK.

We say thank you and goodbye to NCIA, and affirm that we will continue – in our own ways – to advance NCIA perspectives for voluntary groups independent from, and unfettered by, powerful outside interests, and committed to stand visibly and practically in solidarity with those facing injustices; to speak plainly about these injustices; and campaign vigorously for their end.

November 2015


  • 42nd Street – Simone Spray
  • Adur Voluntary Action – Adrian Barritt
  • Mike Aiken – independent researcher
  • Assemblies for Democracy – Paul Feldman
  • bOLDr – Steve Lancashire
  • Boycott Workfare
  • Bradford Resource Centre – Mike Quiggin
  • BRAP – Joy Warmington
  • Bullian Community Resource Centre – Belinda Lowis
  • Camden Voluntary Action – Kevin Nunan
  • Centre for Welfare Reform – Simon Duffy
  • Children England – Kathy Evans
  • Chilypep – Lesley Pollard
  • CO2Connections – James Murphy
  • Communities Inc – Shamsher Chohan
  • Community Action Derby – Kim Harper
  • Community Action Milton Keynes – Alissa Pemberton
  • Community Development Network London – Matt Scott
  • Community Sector Coalition – Nick Beddow
  • De Montfort University – Jonathan Davies (personal capacity)
  • Detention Forum – Eiri Ohtani
  • Directory of Social Change – Jay Kennedy
  • Disabled People Against the Cuts Steering Group – Linda Burnip
  • Disabled People Against the Cuts, NE & Cumbria – Gail Ward
  • Dudley Council for Voluntary Services – Lorna Prescott
  • Edge Hill University – John Diamond
  • Equanomics – Karen Chouhan
  • European Services Strategy Unit – Dexter Whitfield
  • Faiths4Change – Laird Ryan
  • Glasgow Caledonian University – Les Huckfield
  • Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit – Denise McDowell
  • Hackney Unites – Jane Holgate
  • Housing Justice – Alastair Murray
  • In Defence of Youth Work – Tony Taylor
  • Institute of Race Relations – Jenny Bourne
  • Keep Volunteering Voluntary – Penny Waterhouse
  • Lincolnshire Community Foundation – Gordon Hunter
  • Livesthroughfriends – Bob Rhodes
  • London School of Economics – Armine Ashkanian
  • Manchester Community Central MACC – Mike Wild
  • Manchester Metropolitan University – Carol Packham
  • Middlesborough Voluntary Development Agency – Dinah Lane
  • Migrants Resource Centre – Ros Lucas
  • Muslim Community Helpline – Sarah Sherif
  • National Community Activist Network – Joe Taylor
  • Neighbourhood Networks – John Dalrymple
  • North Tyneside Women’s Voices – Penny Remfry
  • Our NHS – Caroline Molloy
  • People’s Republic of Southwark – Liliana Dmitrovic
  • Question the Powerful – Henry Tam
  • Refugee Council – Maurice Wren
  • Renters’ Rights London & Waltham Forest Renters – Rosie Walker
  • Sue Robson – community development practitioner
  • Salford Star – Stephen Kingston
  • Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations – Ruchir Shah
  • South West Foundation – Jan Crawley
  • Sussex Defend our NHS
  • Unite the Union – Sally Kosky & James Lazou
  • University of Northampton – Bob Colenutt
  • Voluntary Action Harrow Cooperative – Alex Buckmire
  • Voluntary Action Lewisham – Tony Nickson
  • Volunteer Centre Lewisham – Kay Kelleher
  • Volunteer Cornwall – Ian Jones
  • Water Adventure Centre – Lilian Pons
  • We Own It – Cat Hobbs
  • West Northumberland Foodbank – Jo Walker
  • World to Win – Corinna Lotz





Original post from NCVO

‘……….by Karl Wilding

Today, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Select Committee (PACAC) is holding an evidence session for their inquiry into Kids Company and its relationship with government. Chair Alan Yentob and chief executive Camila Batmanghelidjh will have to defend their decisions about the governance and oversight of Kids Company and answer questions on the charity’s financial dealings with government. I have no doubt that whatever details emerge will be seized upon by the media, and wider conclusions about the charity sector may be drawn.

For all its flaws, many of which have been covered extensively, the closure of Kids Company was a sad event. However, after a summer of criticism of the voluntary sector, I think it’s worth explaining why Kids Company was atypical of the vast majority of charities.

In good company?

The PACAC inquiry will focus much of its energy on assessing whether the government’s funding of Kids Company was fair and appropriate. For a start, the sheer amount of funding that Kids Company received from successive governments – approximately £30m since 2008 – is practically unheard of among most charities.

The golden age of grant funding peaked 10 years ago, when grants from government were worth £6 billion; they are now at one-third of that level, having been largely replaced by contracts and fees. The majority of charities receive no statutory funding whatsoever.

The fact that Kids Company was in receipt of government grants even after concerns had been raised about its management is more a reflection of its founder’s relationship with Whitehall than a representation of the sector more generally.

The second way in which Kids Company was unlike other charities – particularly comparable large charities – was its hand-to-mouth nature. Despite receiving millions of pounds a year, it lacked reserves (three months’ worth of operating expenditure is generally recommended).

While it can be difficult for a charity to build up reserves – see my colleague Dave Kane’s blog post explaining why –and as tempting as it is to address needs in the here and now, boards have a duty to their staff and beneficiaries to ensure their organisation is sustainable. Despite tough times, many are taking the difficult decisions needed to adapt to the new funding environment.

Learning lessons

For all the ways in which Kids Company was a maverick among charities, it would be unwise to assume that means we can’t learn lessons from it. Good governance is key to running a charity successfully, and having a long term strategy means you can plan for the future – especially if, like Kids Company, you have an unpredictable income.

The perils of ‘founder syndrome’ are well-known, but many boards need the confidence to challenge where they see misdirection or mismanagement. Identifying skills shortages on boards is crucial, but so is making sure that your organisation has a culture where transparency and accountability reign.

For Kids Company, the aftermath of its closure was complicated by the fact that different reports circulated about how many young people they actually helped – the charity claimed to help 36,000 young people, but reportedly handed over records for only 1,692 clients in London and 175 in Bristol.

Being able to evidence your impact is crucial, not only in the spirit of accountability to funders, but also to assess whether or not you are actually making a difference.

Turning the corner

The story of Kids Company is unlikely to go away anytime soon. I think it’s a good thing that a spotlight has been shone on governance, and my hope is that boards will be more confident in examining their finances, reserves policy, and impact reports as a result of what happened.

But equally important, is to keep making the point that the vast majority of charities are not Kids Company – they are small, local and reliant on donations, not government grants. More importantly, in this context, they are also by and large financially salient, well governed and administratively sound.

As important as it is to acknowledge failings, we should also champion examples of good governance and high impact where we see them. NCVO has tools to help boards recognise what good governance looks like and address problems where they arise, and will soon be celebrating the winners of the Winifred Tumim prize for good governance.

There are more than 160,000 charities in the UK. Let’s be cheered by the good work and huge difference that the vast majority make every day.      ………..’

Enough is enough on social care cuts, sector tells government ahead of spending review

Original post from Community Care


Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) Photo credit: ADASS
Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) Photo credit: ADASS

The government must protect adult social care from further cuts to avoid substantial increases in unmet need, large numbers of providers leaving the market and significant extra pressures on carers and the NHS.

That was the message from sector leaders from local government, charities, the provider sector and the NHS in what they described as an unprecedented joint call for the government to safeguard funding for the sector over the coming years.

Reduced dignity

The submission to the government’s spending review, which reports on 25 November and will set spending limits in England from 2016-20, said year-on-year cuts since 2010 threatened the dignity of older and disabled people and their carers and the sustainability of the care market and the NHS.

It said that ministers had to ensure that councils could protect social care funding against inflation, the increased demand from the rising number of people in need each year and the costs of new policies, notably the so-called “national living wage”, which will substantially increase employment costs in the sector.

Were the government not to take this step, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president Ray James said the consequences would be stark:

We would see councils forced to ever more tightly ration care. Fewer people would get services; the size of packages would reduce. Some care providers would exit the market.”

The submission was signed by the Adass, NHS Confederation, the Care Providers Alliance, which represents provider umbrella bodies, and the Care and Support Alliance, a coalition of charities and other organisations supporting older and disabled people.

James said this showed that directors setting adults’ services budgets, charities seeing the effects of cuts on service users’ and carers’ lives, providers worried about their bottom lines and health chiefs concerned about the impact of social care cuts on the NHS, were of one mind about the need to end cuts.

The social care funding crisis in numbers

  • From 2009-10 to 2014-15, total adults’ services spending by councils fell by 8% in real terms, official figures show, despite councils receiving annual transfers of cash from the NHS for social care from 2011-12 onwards.
  • But this understates the impact on unmet need because of substantial rises in the number of people with care and support needs, due to demography. The number of people with multiple long-term conditions is expected to increase by more than 50% from 2008-18, said the submission.
  • Because of these demographic pressures councils would need an extra £700m a year every year up to 2019-20 to maintain access to services at current levels, according to the Local Government Association.
  • This does not include the impact of the government’s national living wage which, the LGA estimates, could cost councils an extra £920m a year in increased wage costs for local authority staff and payments to providers by 2019-20.
  • The number of adults receiving social services from councils fell by over 500,000 from 1,782,000 to 1,273,000 people from 2008-9 to 2013-14, official figures show.
  • It is not clear whether council spending on adult social care will fall in 2015-16 in real terms, as this will depend on the extent to which cuts in direct government funding to councils were mitigated by the transfer of NHS resources to council care budgets through the Better Care Fund.

James said he thought the seriousness of the funding problems facing social care was starting to be understood by government, but the impact of this on the spending review was unclear.

“How much they fund, what strings will be attached and whether they fund the growing gap as well as the cost of the living wage remains to be seen,” he added.

More cuts to come

The purpose of the spending review is to eliminate the government’s public spending deficit by 2019-20 by reducing annual spending by £20bn. While some funding areas are fully or partly protected from cuts, local government is unprotected. The government has asked departments responsible for unprotected funding areas to model real-terms savings of 25% and 40% to budgets by 2019-20.

The NHS is one of the protected areas and has been promised an increase of £10bn in funding in real-terms from 2014-15 to 2020-21, in response to calls from NHS England chief Simon Stevens for increased resource to tackle mounting pressures on the service.

Since 2011-12, the NHS has been mandated to transfer some funding to councils to spend on adult social care, and this is now enshrined in law through the Better Care Fund (BCF).

There is some expectation that the government will use the extra funding being directed at the NHS to help adult social care mitigate the cuts expected to local government through the BCF. However, James warned that Stevens’ estimate of NHS resource requirements was predicated on social care funding being protected – not of NHS resources being recycled to help social care.

“I am sure colleagues in the NHS will say that they need all of that extra money,” he added.   ………………’

Real DPO fends off POhWER bid after mayor’s intervention

Original post from Disabled Go News


A local disabled people’s organisation (DPO) has succeeded in fending off a national charity that was trying to use its financial might to take over a contract to provide support to users of direct payments.

The future of Real in Tower Hamlets, east London, had been at risk after the local authority awarded the contract to the charity POhWER.

Real had been providing support to disabled people in the borough for eight years, and a survey of its service-users found 100 per cent agreed they had been given helpful information and support on direct payments.

Following protests from disabled people in Tower Hamlets, the council’s overview and scrutiny committee voted unanimously last September to ask the elected mayor, Lutfur Rahman, to reconsider the decision to award the new contract to POhWER.

He agreed to do so and decided that the council should re-tender for the contract. In the meantime, Real’s contract has been extended.

Since he made that decision, Rahman has been removed from power by an election court, although he is appealing against the court’s judgment.

Disability News Service (DNS) reported last year that POhWER had won the £354,000 a year contract by under-cutting its competitors with a bid of £199,000, even though Real scored the highest of all seven bidders on “quality”.

Nine of Real’s 16 staff are disabled people, as are more than 70 per cent of the team who deliver the direct payments support service.

POhWER has an annual turnover of nearly £10 million a year and “unrestricted reserves” of £850,000, and delivers services to about 60 local authorities across England. Four of its nine trustees are disabled people.

National policy documents stress the importance of services delivered by local, user-led organisations, and Real was backed in its fight by other DPOs, including Inclusion London and Disability Rights UK.

Mike Smith, Real’s chief executive and the former disability commissioner at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: “I can’t comment on the specifics of this, to ensure Real doesn’t fall foul of anti-competition law in any future re-tendering.

“But I can say that I’m very relieved that we can now get on with the day job – delivering a great locally-delivered service for local residents, run and controlled by local disabled people.

“It’s great to be focusing our attention on things that really matter, like our Democracy Conference and mayoral hustings event on 1 June, where we will have loads of local disabled people quizzing the new mayoral candidates.”

Neither Tower Hamlets council nor POhWER were able to comment in time for the DNS deadline.

News provided by John Pring at


Hi I’m Aden, I work at DisabledGo as the Digital Marketing Manager and I manage the blog and all social media channels.

More posts from author           ………….’

Shame of charities that prey on the kind-hearted and drove Olive to her death: Organisations who exploited pensioner’s kind heart admit to sending begging letters

Original post from Daily Mail

‘…………….By Paul Bentley and Lucy Osborne and Katherine Faulkner for the Daily Mail

  • Olive Cooke, 92, killed herself after being inundated with pleas for money
  • Had 27 direct debits to charities and received 260 begging letters a month
  • Daily Mail investigation has discovered Mrs Cooke’s name was on a list of donors maintained by shadowy data firms and sold on to charities
  • All charities contacted they had adhered to the highest ethical standards

Charities last night admitted sending begging letters to a grandmother who killed herself because she was overwhelmed by demands for money.

Amnesty International, Save the Children and the Alzheimer’s Society insisted their actions were not to blame for Olive Cooke’s death. But her family accused the charities of exploiting the poppy seller’s kind heart. And David Cameron called for watchdogs to probe the barrage of letters sent to the 92-year-old.

‘Olive Cooke was an incredible woman who worked tirelessly for the charities she supported,’ said the Prime Minister. ‘There is a code that is meant to protect people from feeling pressured by charities and I hope the Fundraising Standards Board will look at whether any more could have been done to prevent this.’

Inundated: Olive Cooke, 92, paid 27 direct debits to charities, and was also sent 260 begging letters a month - as well as countless phone calls with pleas for donations
Inundated: Olive Cooke, 92, paid 27 direct debits to charities, and was also sent 260 begging letters a month – as well as countless phone calls with pleas for donations

Mrs Cooke, who had direct debits to 27 charities, threw herself to her death in the Avon Gorge in Bristol last week after telling friends and family she ‘couldn’t give any more’. The Mail has discovered her name was on a list of donors maintained by shadowy data firms and sold on to charities. This led to her being swamped by phone calls and receiving up to 260 begging letters a month. As MPs and campaigners demanded action to protect the vulnerable, the Mail investigation reveals how:

  •  Big charities bought access to Mrs Cooke’s personal data;
  •  The personal details of millions of charity supporters are being traded for just 15p;
  •  Action on Hearing Loss and the Blue Cross animal charity are among those passing donors’ details to data firms;
  •  One data firm proudly claims to sell the names of 45million charity supporters a year.

A string of household names – including Amnesty, the Alzheimer’s Society, Save the Children, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Prostate Cancer UK and Breast Cancer Care – were yesterday revealed to be among those that sent Mrs Cooke letters before her suicide.

All the charities said they had adhered to the highest ethical standards. But a week after Mrs Cooke’s death, and in a grim reminder of her tormentors’ persistence, begging letters were still being delivered to her home in Fishponds, Bristol.

Tragic: Mrs Cooke - seen here collecting for the Poppy Appeal - killed herself because she felt she 'couldn't give anymore'. The charities contacted by the Daily Mail said they had acted ethically
Tragic: Mrs Cooke – seen here collecting for the Poppy Appeal – killed herself because she felt she ‘couldn’t give anymore’. The charities contacted by the Daily Mail said they had acted ethically

The latest batch included one from the Christian relief charity Tearfund and another from the rights group Womankind.

Politicians and campaigners said last night it was appalling that the frail great-grandmother had felt under siege.

‘The fact charities like these are selling these people’s details for profit is grubby and absolutely appalling,’ said Tory MP Sarah Wollaston. ‘The Information Commissioner needs to step in and stop this.

‘When you give to a charity it is reasonable to expect that information isn’t being sold on. They have a duty to look after those who are donating.’

Another Conservative MP, Andrew Percy, said: ‘It’s shocking that people’s goodwill is being harvested in such a clinical and

Too giving: Grandson Kevin King believes her name was traded by charities because she was so generous. Pictured: Mrs Cooke in 1937
Too giving: Grandson Kevin King believes her name was traded by charities because she was so generous. Pictured: Mrs Cooke in 1937

corporate manner – particularly when they are often vulnerable and elderly.’ Mrs Cooke’s grandson believes her name was traded by charities because she was so generous.

‘I heard rumours they were passing her number around, saying “This person is really generous, give this number a try”,’ said Kevin King, 38, from Redland, Bristol.

‘I’m not sure of the number of calls but it was one or two a day at least. When people phoned up and asked over the phone she ended up feeling guilty.

‘She would give them everything that she had. They were pestering her too much. It was like they were trying to milk her.’

Mrs Cooke was forced to cut her number of direct debits and those close to her say she threw herself to her death because she felt she ‘couldn’t give any more’.

Relatives say she had suffered from depression and lack of sleep and the constant phone calls and letters made her health worse.

Her friend Michael Earley, 72, joined calls for greater protection from begging charity letters. He said: ‘She was hooked, she couldn’t get out of it. If they thought you were a soft target they wouldn’t let you go. Olive was a soft target.’

The data broker Response One admitted to the Mail that it had bought a list that included Mrs Cooke’s name from a data holding firm. The list was used in a marketing campaign for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home – which is why Mrs Cooke had letters from the charity.

But, incredibly, Response One refused to name the data holder because of a non-disclosure agreement.

Earlier this year Mail reporters posed as cold-calling firm workers to discover that they could buy sensitive details of the pensions and medical conditions of millions of people, for as little as 5p each.

But the details of charity donors – the majority of whom are elderly – are a particularly valuable commodity because they are seen as a ‘soft touch’, the Mail has learned.


A call centre worker paid to ‘harangue’ the elderly to make charity donations revealed yesterday how she was forced to quit because the practices were so ‘awful’.

Lucy Draper worked for a call centre that was subcontracted by several charities to get donations.

She said: ‘Every week it would change and we would call on behalf of a different charity.

‘I quit after two or three weeks because of the practices of where I was working and the fact they actively encouraged us to harangue people and hound them and not take no for an answer and you had certain targets to meet and if you didn’t meet those targets you’d lose your job.’

Miss Draper, who didn’t want to name her previous employer, told Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 that the final straw came when she was calling on behalf of a blindness charity. She said: ‘The lady I was speaking to said that her son was actually registered as deaf so she gave all her finances to the deaf charities and I said “Oh that’s fine, I’m really sorry for bothering you, I hope everything goes well”, and my supervisor came over to me and said “Why did you just let that call go? You should have kept going, you should have kept pressing her, kept pressing her”.

‘I didn’t feel comfortable with it so I left that day.’

Miss Draper, who lives in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, added: ‘In those call centres it was awful the things I heard people say. People really putting pressure on.

‘I didn’t know who they were talking to but it could have been anyone, it could have been someone like Olive.

‘I thought it was disgusting the way they had absolutely no compassion and the pressure the people working there were being put under.’

A spokesman for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home said: ‘We are deeply sorry to hear about the death of Olive Cooke and our thoughts go out to her family and friends. Mrs Cooke wasn’t a supporter of our charity and had never given to us, either by direct debit or as a one-off donation. We’ve never contacted Mrs Cooke by phone and our only contact was by mail, asking her to give, to which we received no response.’

A spokesman for the Alzheimer’s Society said: ‘We have undertaken a full investigation of all of our databases and can find no record of Olive Cooke. It’s likely that the mailing Mrs Cooke received came from a third party list of potential donors for a one-off campaign which was then subsequently deleted. Our representatives did not call Mrs Cooke on our behalf at any point.’

Death: Mrs Cooke threw herself to her death in the Avon Gorge in Bristol (pictured) last week
Death: Mrs Cooke threw herself to her death in the Avon Gorge in Bristol (pictured) last week

Kate Allen of Amnesty said: ‘I am deeply saddened by the news of Olive’s tragic death – our thoughts go out to her family at this time.

‘We are taking this issue very seriously and are looking into the details. Olive was a long-standing and valued supporter of Amnesty. Our team last telephoned Olive in April.

‘During that call, even though Olive did not say so explicitly, we sensed she would prefer not to be called again. We then amended our details immediately. This was the last and only call we made.’

Save The Children did not respond to requests for comment.

Mrs Cooke, whose husband died fighting in the Second World War, has sold an estimated 30,000 poppies over 76 years and Mr Cameron gave her an award last November for being Britain’s longest serving poppy seller. Police recovered her body from the Avon Gorge on May 6. An inquest into her death is expected to be opened next week.


MILLIONS of older people are having their personal details collected and sold by firms who market them as premium targets for charity cold-callers.

The companies claim to offer contact information for those most ‘responsive’ to cold calls, stating online that those on their data lists are ‘generous’, ‘charity-minded’ and have a ‘prime credit rating’.

One firm boasts that it ‘trades over 45million charity names a year’ – while another sells information of donors to armed forces charities for 15p per person.

Business: Companies like the ones which had Mrs Cooke on their databases claim to offer contact information for those most ‘responsive’ to cold calls, stating online that those on their data lists are ‘generous’
Business: Companies like the ones which had Mrs Cooke on their databases claim to offer contact information for those most ‘responsive’ to cold calls, stating online that those on their data lists are ‘generous’

Individuals are even sorted into categories which show whether they are ‘interested in religion, environment, lotteries, concerts, collectables, reading, wildlife, pets’ or ‘visiting stately homes’.

Some charities not only buy such data for marketing purposes, but actually pass on the details of their own donors in ‘reciprocal deals’. They share data with marketing firms, who then offer names for sale to companies looking to sell products to the elderly.

These charity donors – some of whom are in their nineties – are then bombarded with phone calls and letters demanding cash from both companies and charities they have never shown any interest in.

Some charities have passed on huge databases of personal details to a private firm called Alchemy Direct Media (UK) Ltd. A previous Mail investigation revealed that this company also sells on details of NHS patients.

Now it has emerged that Alchemy – having obtained data from charities – is boasting it can offer the records of hundreds of thousands of charity donors ‘aged 50-100’ who will be ‘highly responsive’ to marketing calls.


War widow Beryl, pictured with daughter Fran, is another pensioner flooded with letters and calls
War widow Beryl, pictured with daughter Fran, is another pensioner flooded with letters and calls

A war widow with dementia has been hounded by charities begging the 87-year-old to donate her pension money.

Her family say they face a daily battle to stop charities trying to ‘manipulate’ her into giving cash.

Churchgoer Beryl, who lives alone, is flooded with appeal letters and calls. She is even sent gifts, such as a rosary instructing her to pray and donate.

At its worst, there have been more than 50 letters from charities covering the floor beneath Beryl’s letter box.

Last night daughter Fran said: ‘I am incensed about this. It drives me nuts and they are getting away with it. She only has her war widow’s pension and her state pension.

‘She receives a massive amount of post from charities asking for donations. I put them in a drawer, then it overflowed in the drawer, so I put it in a big carrier bag.

‘Dozens and dozens and dozens – all the names you would expect.

‘Marie Curie, British Red Cross, Age UK, it’s all of them. They’re picking on a generation of elderly, lonely people with memory loss.’

Beryl, of Solihull, West Midlands, has an ex-directory phone number and is on the Telephone Preference Service, to bar unwanted calls. But the charities still continue to get in touch.

‘I realised what was happening when I intercepted a call,’ Fran, 61, said. The caller told her that Beryl may have given her phone number when entering a charity raffle.

One letter from Mother Teresa Children’s Foundation came with a rosary asking that it is used ‘to pray for hungry children’. It added: ‘Please also send your best gift to help feed, clothe and shelter them.’

Fran said: ‘My mum is protected. I worry about other elderly people who don’t have anyone.’

British Red Cross denied selling on details but said that ‘on occasion’ charities share contacts for ‘mutual benefit’. Age UK said it buys charity-givers’ details from data firms but added: ‘We ensure that all legal and data guidelines are adhered to.’

Marie Curie and Mother Teresa Children’s Foundation did not comment.

By Paul Bentley and Emily Kent-Smith 

The company sells contact information for those who have given to charities including the Blue Cross animal charity, Royal Voluntary Service and the Animal Rescue Fund. Many of these organisations’ donors will have no idea that their most personal details are being traded.

Names and addresses of 57,106 donors to Action on Hearing Loss – formerly the Royal National Institute for the Deaf – are sold as a so-called ‘Gold File’.

Those on the list are said to be more likely to be homeowners, over the age of 45, holders of a prime credit rating and ‘responsive’ to direct marketing.

This database, of those who have donated between £1 and £20, is touted to other charities. The list even offers ‘wealth indicators’, so the richest donors can be targeted more precisely.

These charity donors  some of whom are in their nineties  are then bombarded with phone calls and letters demanding cash from both companies and charities they have never shown any interest in. Mrs Cooke's, wedding day when she married Leslie Hussey-Yeo
These charity donors some of whom are in their nineties are then bombarded with phone calls and letters demanding cash from both companies and charities they have never shown any interest in. Mrs Cooke’s, wedding day when she married Leslie Hussey-Yeo

Alchemy also says it has added the donors to its own ‘in-house marketing database’ – meaning their information is being sold to commercial salesmen too. Other databases advertised by Alchemy includes a list of 5,000 who have donated to charities which help the armed forces. Their details can be bought for £150 per thousand – or 15 pence each.

Those in this database are likely to be over 55 and are therefore prime targets for those selling ‘grey market products’, Alchemy claims.

It also offers a list of those who either donate to Royal Voluntary Service or who have ‘responded with positivity’ to campaigns. It specifies that the information for sale relates to women who are aged 50 and over with a prime credit rating who donate to elderly causes. This is, apparently, premium information as these women are likely to be taken in by ‘grey market promotions’.

Advertising this data, Alchemy confirms: ‘Individuals on the file have either donated a cash sum to Royal Voluntary Service’s cold direct marketing campaigns or have responded with positivity; showing strong indication that they are charity-minded, responsive and would contribute to both prize draws and raffle campaigns, as well as mail order, financial orders and other grey market promotions.

And still they come: The postman delivers letters Olive's flat complex in Bristol on Friday
And still they come: The postman delivers letters Olive’s flat complex in Bristol on Friday

‘Data is sourced from reciprocal deals as well as data rentals with charities and other direct mail responsive sources.’

Charity donors have apparently proved to be such lucrative targets that some companies now specialise in selling their personal details.

One, EDM Media, claims to be a firm of ‘charity data experts’ selling 45million donors’ names every year. It claims it is working with more than 200 not-for-profit organisations, and its website lists the hundreds of different databases it is selling to charities who want to solicit donations.

EDM asks potential clients: ‘Are you a military/veteran charity looking for new donors? Then these lists are ideal.’ It also claims to offer ‘the best data for your animal charity campaigns’.

Some of its meticulously sorted lists on offer include ‘charitable bingo players’, ‘UK over-50s’ and ‘charity mail order buyers’.

Charities whose donors appear on EDM’s lists include Save the Children and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

  • For confidential support call the Samaritans in the UK on 08457 90 90 90, visit a local Samaritans branch or visit their website




Politics or Charity

Also charities need donations to exist to help others, while political parties wish donations to help themselves to exist for themselves.


Boiling the kettle for my breakfast cuppa after my shower this morning, I heard the tail end of a radio interview about ‘donations’.
Not knowing the full context or having that much interest really, what caught my ear was the interviewee’s comment:
“If you donate to a charity, you’re considered a good guy. If you donate to a political party, you’re the bad guy. What’s the difference?”

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