Revealed: Captain Tom Foundation flagged to watchdogs by NHS charities group

The NHS charities group for which Captain Sir Tom Moore raised nearly £39m flagged concerns about improper data use by a foundation set up in his name to watchdogs, The Independent you have learned.

NHS Charities Together contacted the Charity Commission and Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) last year to highlight “potential improper use of data” from the JustGiving page set up for the former army officer’s fundraising effort.

It is understood that the Captain Tom Foundation – which incorporated in May 2020 to give to causes “close to Captain Tom’s heart” after the fundraiser ended – contacted people using email addresses they supplied while donating to NHS Charities Together via the Captain Tom JustGiving page.

It is not known how many people were contacted, but just over 250,000 donors supplied email addresses via JustGiving’s website.

It is understood that concerns flagged by NHS Charities Together – an association of more than 230 charities – formed part of the Charity Commission’s regulatory compliance case, which was opened in March last year.

It comes after accounts published last month showed that the foundation had paid tens of thousands of pounds to firms run by the late veteran’s daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, and son-in-law, Colin. The accounts describe the transactions as reimbursements.

The Independent also reported how it had been told part of the watchdog’s compliance case related to a request from the foundation to appoint Ms Ingram-Moore as CEO on a salary in the region of £150,000, equating to about a tenth of its first-year income. It is understood that the Charity Commission blocked the appointment last summer. The foundation said Ms Ingram-Moore “took the decision that the CEO role was not something she wished to pursue”, although she was appointed on an interim basis.

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Meanwhile, a fundraising event billed “Captain Tom Day”, set to be held in June, has been postponed in the wake of disclosures about the foundation’s finances, The Independent you have been told.

According to the Information Commissioner’s Office’s website, “electronic mail marketing” cannot be sent to individuals unless they have specifically consented or are an existing customer.

NHS Charities Together told The Independent that they were “alerted to the potential improper use of data from a closed third-party fundraising page.” Adding: “It was our responsibility to notify the relevant regulators for them to take action as needed.”

People who had donated to NHS Charities Together via the JustGiving page alerted the charity to the potential improper use of data, it said. It confirmed those people who alerted it had received emails from the Captain Tom Foundation.

The Captain Tom Foundation was established in May 2020 after the former army officer – who died in February last year – raised nearly £39m, including gift aid, for NHS Charities Together by walking laps of his garden.

The Captain Tom JustGiving page was set up in April 2020, with Maytrix Group, the company run by Hannah and Colin Ingram-Moore, the page owner. The page owner was changed to Gemma Huddleston in late June 2020, according to a JustGiving spokesperson. Huddleston describes herself as a “marketing communications and brand professional” on her Linkedin profile de ella, which states that she worked as a “freelance consultant” for the Captain Tom Foundation from April 2020 until May 2021.

A spokesperson for JustGiving said donors could choose to receive emails, meaning the page owner had access to email addresses of those who opted in. They said the page owner was the data controller and has responsibility for complying with GDPR.

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More than 1.5 million donations to NHS Charities Together were made via the Captain Tom JustGiving page, the spokesperson said, with just over 250,000 donors sharing their email addresses. It is understood that JustGiving advised Ms Huddleston in September 2020 to seek legal advice before sending any communications to donors. Ms Huddleston was contacted for comment.

Ellie Orton, of NHS Charities Together, said: “We are so grateful for the incredible fundraising of Captain Sir Tom Moore. As part of our Covid-19 urgent appeal, his inspiring efforts helped us fund hundreds of projects supporting NHS staff, patients and volunteers across the UK, prior to the creation of the separate Captain Tom Foundation.

“Like all charities we are required to follow strict guidance around use of supporter data, so when in April 2021 we were alerted to the potential improper use of data from a closed third-party fundraising page, it was our responsibility to notify the relevant regulators for them to take action as needed. We can reassure supporters that this matter did not involve any of the data we hold.

“Captain Tom and his family achieved amazing things for the NHS and the impact of this achievement continues to be felt by the network of 238 NHS charities across the UK.”

In a statement, the Captain Tom Foundation said the money raised on the JustGiving page went directly to NHS Charities Together, adding: “We worked closely with the ICO during the course of their inquiry who were grateful for the trustees’ cooperation and closed their case .”

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A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “Our engagement with the trustees of the Captain Tom Foundation on its set-up and governance arrangements continues. We cannot comment further at this time.”

The ICO said: “We can confirm we received complaints in relation to the Captain Tom Foundation. After meeting with the charity, we provided advice on data protection and direct marketing rules, and decided no further action was needed. The case has been closed.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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