Charity donation theft must be taken seriously

Jo Swinson speaking in the House of Commons

Jo has been contacted by people across the country about bogus charity collections

Jo Swinson today led a Parliamentary debate on bogus charity clothes collections and called for a new approach to tackle the problem.

Bogus collections occur either when companies mislead people into believing they are donating to charity, or when donations left on doorsteps are simply stolen by organised thieves. The practice denies genuine charities millions of pounds worth of donations every year.

In some cases, local police forces are struggling to cope. In a raid last month, police arrested 10 gang members unloading stolen clothes at a warehouse in Romford. When police could find neither accommodation in cells or translators to communicate with gang members, all were released without charge.

Jo commented:

“This practice first came to my attention when a constituent of mine from Kirkintilloch complained about a bogus flier that came through his door.

“The situation has snowballed since then, and to date I have received letters and emails on this issue from St Albans, Somerset, London, Bristol, Hampshire, Fife, Gosport, Perth, Dorset and Tunbridge Wells.

“The issue of misleading fliers being used by bogus charities to solicit donations is closely linked to the problem of outright theft of clothing donations left on doorsteps.

“This donation theft costs charities in this country between £2.5 and £3 million pounds per year. Losses to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital alone hit £300,000 last year.

“The temptations for thieves are obvious. Around one tonne of second-hand clothing will fetch upwards of £500 on the black market. Nationwide, over 50 tonnes of donated items are stolen every week.

“The legacy of failing to tackle these thefts, of failing to allow people to give to charities without fear that their donations are funding criminals, will not only be damage to charities’ work. It will also lead to a loss of trust and goodwill among the public as a whole.”

In his response, Minister for the Voluntary Sector Ed Miliband indicated that he would seek to bring together various stakeholders including the Charities Commission and the Police over the coming months, to pursue solutions to the problem of bogus charity collections.

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