Registered Charity No. 327308
1. This is the statement of the results of an Inquiry under Section 8 of the Charities Act 1993.
2. Paradise Trust (‘the Charity’) was registered as a Charity on 27 November 1986. Its object can be summarised as: the advancement of education and the relief of the aged, sick, handicapped and poor and such other charitable purposes as the Trustees may with the approval of the Charity Commissioners’ resolve.
3. The Charity owns and operates a residential care home called Meadowbank for adults with learning disabilities in Painswick, Gloucestershire. Meadowbank is run and operated under the principles and methods of teaching of Rudolf Steiner. In the financial year ending 31 March 2003 the Charity had an income of £75,178, with an expenditure of £62,154.
4. The Charity had twice been the subject of scrutiny by the Commission in 2000 and then again in September 2001 following a Review Visit, along with Paradise House Association Limited (‘Paradise House’). The Charity was founded out of Paradise House and they continue to retain close links.
5. The causes for concern relating to the Charity that were identified by the Commission’s scrutiny were connected with:
6. It is not within the Commission’s remit to judge the quality of the residential care services provided by this Charity. Consequently this Inquiry should not be seen as a criticism of, or a comment on, the services provided by the Charity or its staff.
7. The Inquiry was authorised and opened on 27 June 2003.
8. The Commission found that upon the advice of Meadowbank’s manager, the trustees employed his stepson as a care worker through a process involving no open and fair competition and during which the vacancy was not advertised.
9. The Commission found that the trustees had failed to maintain adequate overall management and supervision of the charity’s staff. Meadowbank’s manager had delegated many of his responsibilities to his stepson, as careworker such that the work undertaken by this careworker bore no likeness to his job description. The trustees had no job description for the manager and could not be certain who had undertaken specific management functions due to the fact that there were no systems in place to clearly set out the functions of each staff member.
10. Although Criminal Records Bureau (‘CRB’) checks were being completed, the Commission found that the trustees were not sure whether the enhanced CRB checks had been carried out on all staff working at Meadowbank and were held on file by the Charity. This is now a legal requirement under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
11. The Commission found no evidence of inappropriate expenditure, but found that the trustees had insufficient financial controls regarding the management of the charity’s funds. No policy existed regarding who should appear on the mandate for the charity’s bank accounts and there was no policy regarding the authorisation of specific items of expenditure, regardless of size.
12. The Commission found that the trustees had failed in their duty to control the Charity’s administration. No systems were in place to monitor the performance of staff or to ensure that the Charity was being run in a way that was consistent with how the trustees wished to fulfil their charitable objective. There was disagreement within the Charity where the manager, an ex-trustee and founder of the Charity, complained that the trustees showed insufficient interest in the Charity while the trustees maintained that the manager took decisions without consultation or authority.
13. The Commission found that the financial links between the Charity and Paradise House were unclear and poorly managed. The residents of Meadowbank spent some time at Paradise House while staff employed by Paradise House carried out maintenance at Meadowbank. Invoices were not always raised in respect of these activities and consequently relevant payments were not made.
14. The trustees are preparing a formal job description for the manager of Meadowbank and have made clear that his stepson is not the manager ‘in waiting’. Should the manager’s position becomes vacant the trustees have advised the Commission that they will conduct an open and fair recruitment process.
15. The trustees have confirmed that all Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 checks have now been completed and that the Charity holds the reports on file.
16. The trustees have taken steps to improve the financial controls of the charity. This includes ensuring that only individuals who require access to the Charity’s funds are named on the bank mandate and developing a policy regarding the authorisation of expenditure.
17. Two additional trustees have been appointed to the Charity and the trustee who had been inactive in the Charity’s management for several years is again involved in the administration and management of the Charity.
18. The links with Paradise House are no longer unclear or poorly managed. The trustees believe that the interests of the Charity may be best served by merging the charity with Paradise House and have started a dialogue on this subject with the trustees of that Charity.
19. The Inquiry was closed on 18 February 2004.
20. Trustees are responsible for the overall management and administration of a charity. They should ensure that financial controls are not only adequate but provide sufficient information to satisfy the trustees that the controls are being observed.
21. Trustees should meet on a regular basis to ensure that the charity is administered properly. Trustee meetings should discuss the activities of the charity and its financial situation.
22. Trustees should be decisive, take responsibility and be accountable for controlling their charity. They should be able to devote sufficient time to their duty to effectively monitor the charity’s activities.
23. Charity trustees are ultimately responsible for the proper administration of their charities, even when day to day management is delegated to a staff. The relationship between trustees and staff is crucial and trustees must ensure that a proper balance is achieved between the needs of staff to manage on a day to day basis and the needs of trustees to determine overall direction and maintain control of the charity.
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