Cancer charity which took funds from St Albans residents is forced to close

Bailey Sarwa

Bailey Sarwa - Credit: Photo supplied

A cancer charity at the heart of a massive fundraising campaign which raised tens of thousands of pounds to help a St Albans boy has been ordered to cease trading.

In July the Charity Commission appointed interim managers to take charge of Families Against Neuroblastoma (FAN) while it investigated concerns about its governance and financial management.

The charity accepted £100,000 in donations from kind-hearted St Albans residents and then allegedly refused to help its intended recipient - Bailey Sarwa - who two years ago suffered a relapse of neuroblastoma, a rare cancer which affects nerve cells.

Bailey, then aged 12, needed urgent antibody treatment after the cancer struck again after seven years’ remission.

But as Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) initially told his family that it was unwilling to give the treatment, they were forced to mount a fundraising campaign - backed by the Herts Advertiser - to enable the then-stricken boy to have care in either Germany or the United States.

However the hospital later reversed that decision and Bailey, who did not receive a penny from FAN, last year successfully fought off the cancer for the second time.

A statement from FAN’s interim managers, Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery LLP, said their investigation into the dealings and financial position of the charity found it “can unfortunately no longer continue to trade”.

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But appeal money remained “ring-fenced,” secure and no funds would be moved without prior consent from affected families.

It added: “The interim managers have written to all those families to inform them of the decision to close the charity and will discuss with them the options for transferring their child’s appeal fund to another charity with similar objectives.”

The charity, registered in 2010, had said it would provide help for the physical and mental health of those with neuroblastoma and the support of sufferers and their families.

Information lodged with Companies House shows that the appointment of FAN’s director and secretary, Linza Corp, also its founder, has since been terminated.

Becki Jones, Bailey’s mum, was first approached by the charity while her son was having chemotherapy at GOSH.

But she later complained to the Charity Commission as FAN allegedly blocked her and locals spearheading the fundraising campaign from seeing exactly how much money had been raised for Bailey.

Becki told the Herts Advertiser that the announcement of the charity’s closure had left her feeling, “numb. I feel sad that it has come to this”.

She and other families with FAN appeals will be sent a reconciliation of the receipts and payments from the fund in the coming weeks.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said she did not know when its report would be published.

She said that although FAN had to cease trading as a result of Baker Tilly’s findings, the interim managers’ conclusion “does not affect our investigation” which are continuing.

This newspaper understands that while the results of such probes normally take at least two months, the commission had anticipated its investigations into FAN would take longer, because it was likely to be complicated.