Other posts on this blog raise questions about the benefits and morality of running a charity and a commercial business, using the charity to locate clients for the business, at significant risk to the charity's client.
I've received a set of documents today that reveal a much simpler form of exploitation. In a nutshell, this is a story of an employee who paid the National Bullying Helpline £310 in advance for time critical work that was not done, and who, after a course of correspondence received a 50% refund just under 3 months later.The problem is not so much that the work was not done - that's down to a human error that anyone could make. The issue is with the refusal to accept full responsibility, and the excuses for the 2 month delay in providing half a refund.
I have not only read the e-mails described below but have met the client in person and I am satisfied that this is an accurate and candid account of events.
The documents, which contain confidential information and which will need to be extensively redacted before publication, are likely to be submitted to an appropriate authority in due course. However, to enable readers to make an informed decision about making payments in advance to the National Bullying Helpline, here's a chronology, using the client's words:-
12/8 - Client phones helpline & has conversation with Christine Pratt who give the client hope that she could help. CP asks for the name of client's employer. Client complies. CP sounds as if she is losing interest when client says the bullying investigation has been completed, but client says what she needs is urgent advice with preparing a letter of appeal for which there is an imminent deadline. CP tells client there will be a fee but she will e-mail information that day.
13/8 Client phones CP as no e-mail received. CP notes client's email address again. E-mail arrives with info about NBH and requesting £10 donation.
14/8 Client emails CP confirming she will send £10 donation, confirming she would like assistance, confirming deadline of 21/8 and asking how much it will cost. CP e-mails client with price (£300 for 3 hours work) attaching an agreement and giving a list of solicitors having referral fee agreements with NBH.
15/8 Client emails CP to advise she is sending payment, signed agreement and documents.
18/8 Client receives letter from CP acknowledging receipt and confirming "we will start on your case immediately".
19/8 Client emails CP with further prep notes for the appeal. CP e-mails client stating "I have started reading the material and will endeavour to do this work urgently.... I will contact you again soon". (Cheques presented upon receipt).
20/8 Client e-mails CP asking for a quick call as the appeal deadline is the next day. CP does not call.
21/8 Client phones CP. CP says she is in a meeting. Client says the deadline is that day and she will have to get the appeal letter together herself. CP says she will call later. CP does not call.
22/8 Client feels let down but posts CP a copy of the letter she prepared. Client feels frightened to complain to CP about not meeting the deadline.
26/8 Client e-mails CP advising she is getting a loan arranged in case she needs to see a solicitor.
29/8 Client e-mails CP asking for advice following further letter from employer on ways to appeal.
4/9 Client e-mails CP expressing disappointment at not having heard back, and asking for a refund of £300. CP emails client offering £150 refund with the other £150 as "a donation to the charity". CP also writes: "I will return your documents and the report so far"
8/9 Client e-mails CP disputing CP's version of events but reluctantly accepting the £150 refund due to lack of energy to fight for the full amount. Client asks for cheque to be posted immediately. CP replies saying she will return the £150 and offering a "strategy document" and further 2 hours of help "FOC"
12/9 Client e-mails CP thanking her for her offers but stating she needs to focus on her health and just wants her money back. Client then spends 2 weeks in hospital undergoing major operation - CP aware.
30/9 Client out of hospital; E-mails CP advising that neither the cheque nor the documents have been received. Client then preparing for appeal hearing and short vacation. (Appeal upheld)
27/10 Client e-mails CP chasing the cheque, now requesting full refund and threatening legal action. CP replies: "I have placed a cheque in the post for £150. I will put a stop on it." CP says she will raise a "second cheque" but still for £150.
3/11 Client e-mails CP in strong terms saying cheque still not arrived. CP replies stating "I neglected to put the second cheque in the post as I have been very busy..." and saying she finds the tone of the client's e-mails "unnecessarily aggressive and threatening"
7/11 Client e-mails CP saying cheque not received, nor documents and that client is going to see a solicitor. CP emails client saying cheque has been posted.
10/11 CP emails client requesting confirmation of receipt of cheque. Client replies confirming receipt of cheque but asking again for return of documents. CP replies with further excuses saying she will get the documents off asap.
17/11 Client's documents finally received by client. Client acknowledges receipt.