Kent MP calls for tougher 'chugger' regulations

Restrictions introduced in August 2012 mean fundraisers cannot follow a person or stand within 3m (10ft) of a shop.

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A Kent MP has called for tougher regulations on street fundraisers, claiming rules recently brought in do not go far enough.

Restrictions introduced in August 2012 mean fundraisers cannot follow a person or stand within 3m (10ft) of a shop.

But Dover and Deal MP Charlie Elphicke said they would be enforced by a charity-led body and it would not work.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA) will be able to fine charities that breach the rules.

Street collectors, often called chuggers, have been criticised for hassling people to set up direct debits but others say they are vital.

Mr Elphicke, of the Conservative Party, told BBC Inside Out South East: "Where they harass you in the street, as we see in so many of our town centres up and down the country, it passes the limit of what is acceptable.

"That is why we need a statutory code of regulation because self-regulation simply doesn't work."

Issue fines

He added: "We need to understand what chuggers are - they are commissioned sellers. These are not people employed by the charity. They're people contracted by the charity, on commission, to raise funds so they're not interested necessarily in the reputation of the charity concerned.

Current restrictions

Street fundraisers must not:

  • Stand within 3m (10ft) of a shop doorway, cash machines, pedestrian crossing or station entrance
  • Sign up anyone to a direct debit who, due to illness, disability, drugs or drink, is unable to give informed consent
  • Approach members of the public who are working, such as tour guides or newspaper vendors
  • Cannot follow a person for more than three steps

"My concern is that the behaviour and activities of these chuggers harms the entire charity brand.

"There's a sharp difference between the person holding a tin, even maybe rattling the tin, and the person who harasses you in the street.

"Charities need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for the fact that they themselves have completely failed to ensure that chuggers behave properly."

John Bines, fundraising director of charity Everychild, said about 30-40% of its income came from people recruited by street fundraisers.

"It's the main way by quite a long way that we recruit new supporters," he added.

"Every year we have a target to recruit new support, so [we] can generate the income to spend on children around the world.

"Of the total income over time, probably about 30-40%, has come from this support so it's very, very important."

New restrictions introduced in the summer mean collectors cannot stand within 3m (10ft) of a shop, follow anyone for more than three steps or approach someone who is working.

They will be enforced by the PFRA which has the power to issue fines.

'Balance standards'

Chief executive of the PFRA, Sally de la Bedoyere, said: "This is something that will help us ensure the sustainability because that is what the charities need.

"What we did is really put some meat behind those questions about what is obstruction? What is harassment? Are you obstructing an entrance? Well you are if it's within three metres.

"We're looking all the time to balance their behaviour, balance their standards, balance the work they're doing so that the charities can go about their business and raise the funds that they need.

"But the public can go about their business and not be put under undue pressure when they don't want to be."

Inside Out is broadcast on BBC One South East, South and London on Monday, 7 January at 19:30 GMT. It is also available nationwide on the BBC iPlayer for seven days thereafter.

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