Former frontline staff at the British Association of Adoption and Fostering (BAAF) have joined calls for an independent investigation into the charity’s closure.
In a letter sent to BAAF’s trustees, more than 40 ex-BAAF employees called on the board to address the “many unanswered questions” staff had surrounding the closure and said they would be writing to the Charity Commission to request that the regulator launches “a full and transparent investigation”.
The intervention marks the second call for an investigation into BAAF’s demise, with two former chief executives of the charity having also written to the Charity Commission requesting a review.
The Charity Commission said it was considering whether it had “any regulatory concerns” it needed to address with BAAF’s trustees and would respond to the staff in due course.
90 minutes’ notice
BAAF closed on 31 July due to financial problems. Some of the organisation’s services, which included several Department for Education contracts, were transferred to the charity Coram. A letter from administrators showed that Coram paid £40,000 to take on the functions.
The letter from staff, a copy of which has been seen by Community Care, was sent on 10 August. It claimed that staff had received no communication from BAAF’s chair or trustees to clarify how decisions about BAAF’s closure were reached, including how the £40,000 valuation was reached for the functions to be transferred. The employees also raised concerns over the way staff were treated, alleging that some had their employment “terminated with 90 minutes’ notice”.
The staff said that, in their view, the way the closure was handled was “completely at odds with BAAF’s values and culture”.
“We believe that BAAF’s committed and loyal staff group, who have contributed so much to the adoption and fostering sector, deserve nothing less than a full explanation,” the letter said.
Community Care understands that, at time of writing, the staff members had not received any reply from BAAF’s board to their concerns. When approached to discuss the letter, Antony Douglas, who chaired the BAAF board, declined to comment.
In a statement issued when news of BAAF’s closure broke, the charity said: “We appreciate that this is a very challenging time for our dedicated staff and are committed to giving them as much support as is possible during this period.”
Former employees of the charity have previously claimed that there has been no support offered for staff who have been made redundant.
The questions staff want answered
The letter from former BAAF employees puts forward a series of questions they feel need to be answered about the organisation’s closure. These are:
How long has BAAF been exposed to the financial risk levels reported; were Trustees aware of the emerging position and if so why did Trustees approve the significant draw on reserves during 2014/15?
- Did Trustees have total visibility of the current financial position and were you satisfied that you understood how BAAF had moved from a £2.2m reserves position in April 2014 to being at risk of insolvency by July 2015?
- Was the view of an independent consultant, brought in to assess BAAF’s finances earlier this year, accepted or was a second opinion obtained before agreeing to place the charity into administration?
- Were serious alternatives explored fully? A letter by administrators Smith and Williamson LLP, which was sent to some staff, said that after discussions with the board of trustees it was concluded that there were no suitable organisations operating in all areas of the UK which could uphold the values and provide similar services to BAAF.
- Can Trustees confirm they were aware who those other organisations were and that they were satisfied these alternative options were fully explore and not viable?
- What alternative sources of funding were sought and did Trustees or the CEO do anything to mitigate the financial position prior to the decision to place BAAF in administration?
- Can Trustees confirm that they were satisfied that the £40k sum was a true reflection of BAAF’s value and that they fully understood that no monies would be available to meet redundancy, holiday and payments in lieu of notice, leaving staff, including those on maternity leave, significantly more financially disadvantaged than if BAAF had carried out its contractual redundancy obligations?
- Were all BAAF’s direct services with children, families and the social care workforce fully explored and considered as part of the proposal and were decisions to not include those services as part of the transfer to Coram approved by Trustees?