This is an update about the FOTOP (Friends of the Old People) Charity so that members and stakeholders can be kept up to date and know what to expect next.
FOTOP users who attended the open meeting will know that HVA (Hastings Voluntary Action) have been requested to act by the Charities Commission who have issued a Statutory Order as the FOTOP Charity does not have functioning Trustees and has not complied with its legal obligations by filing accounts or returns for several years. The Order requires HVA to consolidate the assets of the Charity, ensure that a set of accounts is produced, and consider how these assets can best be used to support the beneficiaries of the Charity (ie Older People in Hastings).
HVA have liaised with the Charity’s bankers and have compiled quite a large amount of documents in various forms (ie bank statements, minutes, receipts and payments, investment reports and financial records). These are being brought together and reviewed to produce a set of accounts which will be made available to the Charities Commission and other interested parties. There is quite a lot of information to review but we are making progress. We are aware that although we have a lot of material we may not be in possession of everything and we are inviting any FOTOP member who has information relevant to this review to contact us if there is anything you feel we need to be made aware of or records which need to be included. You can contact HVA either by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting 01424-444010.
The building in Middle Street is owned by the Charity but there has not been any investment in it for some years. This has led to a situation where only the ground floor is usable and accessible. There is a lot of work and investment which would be needed to bring that building fully into use. HVA commissioned specialist contractors to clear the building of years of accumulated items. This was done as the items constituted a fire hazard which needed to be dealt with as a matter of urgency. HVA have also commissioned a firm of local surveyors Dyer and Hobbiss to undertake a valuation of the building as the value of the building is part of the Charities assets and would need to be included in any accounts.
Keeping the building in use
As there is no functioning charity there is no capacity to run services including the cafe. Although the café was not extensively used we are aware of the importance of those services. HVA has worked with the local pop-in centre (a few doors along) to re-locate the bingo sessions. FOTOP users or supporters have informed us that it is in no-ones interests for the building to be closed up whilst key decisions about the assets are taken. This is also the view of HVAs Board who want the building to continue to make a contribution to the local community. For this reason HVA have worked with ETC Sussex, a local Charity who have requested to use the building for a 12 month period to develop a Food Pantry project with café facilities. At present the only the Food Pantry is operating as there have not been enough volunteers coming forward to run the café. ETC Sussex is exploring options to utilise the café for the benefit of the local community and older people but this will take some time.
The Food Pantry has recently opened and is currently open 1.30pm to 4.30pm on Friday.For further information about this project please contact Melanie Selley on 01424 444691, or email at email@example.com. Alternatively you can pop in on Friday afternoons.
What happens Next?
When a set of accounts is produced consolidating all the assets of the Charity we will need to determine how best they can be used. HVA will do this by bringing forward a proposal for the Charities Commission about how this can be done. As we have already mentioned one of the decisions will need to involve the future of 4 Middle Street and whether this should be retained or sold (with the proceeds being used to offer services to older people).
Who will be involved in deciding what happens next?
Decisions about a Charity are normal taken by the Trustees but, as FOTOP does not have a functioning Trustee Board, this is more difficult. As the assets of FOTOP currently come under HVAs jurisdiction our board of Trustees will need to decide on the options. The Board of HVA recognise that there is a wider collection of individuals and organisations who rightly would want to have their say. This is why they have decided that any future decision they make will be informed by:-
- Guidance and views from the Charities Commission
- Formal consultation with the Hastings and St Leonards Seniors Forum
- A further open meeting with FOTOP users and supporters
- Engagement with strategic commissioners of services for Older people
Communication and Contact
We fully appreciate that the difficulties faced by FOTOP and the fact that HVA have been asked to play a role on behalf of the Charities Commission has created a period of uncertainty and change. We are working to address matters in relation to the Charity so that a clear set of options can be brought forward and openly discussed. HVA are committed to completing this work collaboratively and in an open manner. To this end will be issuing updates when we can and convening a meeting when we have completed the next phase of work. In the meantime if you had any specific queries or would like to contact us please feel free to email HVAs Director Steve Manwaring on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01424-444010.