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News : Great Ormond Street Charity Forced to Apologise
August 10, 2014 -- A charity was forced to apologise yesterday for nuisance calls hounding vulnerable and elderly people for donations.
In one shocking example, a woman with a terminally ill daughter asked a firm making calls on behalf of the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to stop phoning her, but it refused to take her off its list.
In another, a manager at NTT Fundraising who was told that a woman with depression did not want to be called replied that the illness was not ‘a get-out-of-jail card’.
The charity said yesterday it had stopped using the call firm and would conduct a thorough investigation of its methods.
The apology came after an investigation of telephone charity fundraisers by Channel 4’s Dispatches programme. It put undercover researchers into two firms, NTT Fundraising in Bristol and Pell and Bales in London, which are contracted by charities including the GOSHCC, the Royal National Institute of Blind People, Oxfam, Unicef and Barnardo’s.
A researcher working at NTT on a campaign for the hospital was told by a woman who said she had a terminally ill daughter that she did not want to ‘talk about it’.
The researcher listed her as a ‘hard refusal’ who should not be called again, but a manager said: ‘We don’t want to do it as a hard refusal because she hasn’t said she doesn’t want calls . . . if you get my point?
‘She hasn’t said "don’t call me" – she has just said she doesn’t want to talk about it; soft refusal. As much as it feels bad and unethical, it is a soft refusal.’ The woman’s name was listed to be called again.
Dispatches said scripts given to call centre staff ask them to make three requests for money to everyone they speak to. At NTT, this applied even when a woman said she was too depressed to talk. A manager told an undercover researcher that ‘being depressed is not really a get-out-of-jail card’.
GOSHCC said: ‘We were shocked and deeply distressed to hear of the evidence of unacceptable behaviour and ways of working presented in this report and we would like to apologise to anyone affected.’
At Pell and Bales, a researcher was given a script in a campaign for RNIB that she believed asked her to claim she was calling directly from the charity. She was told ‘we are in that way like the voice of the RNIB’, although the script contained a statement that the call was being made by Pell and Bales and the firm was being paid.
The RNIB said: ‘Our fundraising activity fully meets the very high standards we set ourselves.’
Professor Stephen Lee, a former director of the Institute of Fundraising, which promotes the industry code of practice followed by the firms involved, said a review was needed, ‘not only of the agencies but also of the way in which fundraisers are managing these relationships’.
NTT Fundraising told the Dispatches programme, to be broadcast tonight: ‘We train and monitor our staff rigorously. Complaints about our calls are extremely rare: of all the calls we made last year generated fewer than 100 complaints. However . . . we are constantly striving to improve.’
Pell and Bales said: ‘Scripts are written in association with our partner charities in line with legal requirements and best practice guidelines.’
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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