Tower Hamlets Council has been pumping hundreds of thousands into a charity which seemingly doesn’t exist.
The latest round of receipts for £35,000 arrived in January on the doorstep of Island House, a community centre on the Isle of Dogs, the listed address for the Docklands Handicapped Group (DHG). But Island House knows nothing about the charity.
However, according to the Charity Commission the DHG was disbanded in 2000 and according to Island House it has not been using the premises for more than a decade.
When The Wharf investigated further we found evidence of nearly 100 payments which been leaving the council regularly since 2011, in sums of £1,946 to £7,182.93 with the total amounting to more than £300,000.
The alarm was raised by the management team at Island House who were fearful that its own funding might be jeopardy if it were thought that it was an direct beneficiary of one of its user groups.
In an email, the Island House management team told Isle of Dogs councillors and the Town Hall: “We are very concerned that Docklands Handicapped Group is using our address to apply for funding.
“With the issues our borough has faced in recent years, our greatest fear is that there is serious fraudulent activity occurring with the grants system which is not being addressed.”
The listed phone line for the group is dead and there is no information on the Docklands Handicapped Group appears online.
Island House said it been advised to reseal the envelopes and send them back to the Town Hall but “despite our best efforts we have not been able to raise this issue with [ Tower Hamlets ] to a satisfactory level”. It said it had raised the matter with the Town Hall "countless times".
A council spokeswoman confirmed Docklands Handicapped Group was still supplying services to the council on the Isle of Dogs but she said the council would now investigate its charitable status.
The spokeswoman said: “Our initial investigations show that all care payments made met the assessed needs of the recipient.
“Docklands Handicapped Group is known to adult social care services as a service provider. As such, their work is regularly reviewed and assessed for quality control and their services were found to meet the needs of the care recipient.
“The organisation should have alerted the council to its change of circumstances. We will continue to investigate the detail of this case.”
Isle of Dogs councillor Peter Golds said: “I was shocked to receive the [Island House] email. This requires a full investigation.”
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “We take this matter extremely seriously and are investigating it thoroughly.
"It does however concern payments made to assist with the care of a vulnerable adult, and this matter needs to be kept in mind and the matter dealt with sensitively.
"This arrangement long preceded my appointment as mayor but I will ensure any proper lessons are learnt and that any funding is in future provided in the appropriate manner and is properly accounted for.
"I cannot account for the assertion that the council has been advised ‘countless times’ as this needs to be properly explained as a part of the investigation.”
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