Investigation into charity which helped St Albans cancer appeal
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A cancer charity which accepted £100,000 in donations from kind-hearted St Albans residents and then allegedly refused to help its intended recipient has had its accounts frozen.
The Charity Commission has appointed two interim managers to take charge of Families Against Neuroblastoma (FAN) while it investigates a number of concerns.
Among those welcoming the inquiry is St Albans mum Becki Jones.
Two years ago, after revealing on social media her devastation upon learning her son had suffered a relapse of neuroblastoma, Becki was offered help by FAN.
Family and friends of Bailey Sarwa, then aged 12, launched a desperate fundraising campaign in 2012, backed by the Herts Advertiser, to try and secure urgent medical care overseas after he was refused potentially life-saving treatment here.
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After nearly seven years in remission, Bailey had suffered a relapse of the rare cancer which affects nerve cells.
The fundraising campaign, organised by FAN, was launched to help pay for vital antibody treatment in either Germany or the United States after Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) told Bailey that because of his relapse, he would not receive such treatment in the UK.
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However the hospital later had a change of heart and gave Bailey antibody treatment. After a series of gruelling treatments, he successfully fought off the cancer for the second time last year and is still in remission.
The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, said that FAN, registered in 2010, had just one trustee.
The regulator is investigating the financial management of the charity, how its funds have been used, the administration and whether trustees have complied with their duties under charity law.
Two interim managers have been appointed from Baker Tilly Restructuring and Recovery LLP to take control of the charity and its assets, to the exclusion of the existing trustees.
This enables FAN to continue operating as normal, and beneficiaries to access funds raised by their appeals in case of need.
Becki was first approached by the charity while Bailey was having chemotherapy at GOSH.
She had considered FAN as a potential lifeline for her son at a time when he was at his most vulnerable, as there was limited treatment being offered.
The charity was set up by Linza Corp after her own son had died from neuroblastoma.
But after supporters of the Bailey Sarwa Appeal raised concerns about FAN, the local campaign switched to an alternative charity – where funds remain for Bailey’s treatment should the cancer return.
Becki was particularly annoyed that although FAN received £100,000 in initial donations, the charity has “declined” to help provide for Bailey’s ongoing therapy.
It also allegedly blocked Becki and others from seeing exactly how much money had been raised for Bailey.
She said: “He hasn’t had a penny from FAN.”
Becki, who complained to the Charity Commission about her dealings with FAN, said she felt “relieved” about the inquiry.
A spokeswoman for FAN declined to comment to the Herts Advertiser.
The Charity Commission – which is not a prosecuting authority but can refer findings to the police – is expected to publish the outcome of its inquiry in about two months time.