Upset as training charity ‘frozen’ after 40 years of operation in Portsmouth

Jennie Brent and Steve Johnson make heart shaped paper cut-outs for the shape shop at the Beneficial Foundation in 2012 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (120345-171)
Jennie Brent and Steve Johnson make heart shaped paper cut-outs for the shape shop at the Beneficial Foundation in 2012 'Picture: Allan Hutchings (120345-171)

DEVASTATED members of a charity have told of their upset as the organisation was 'frozen' by trustees as it was haemorrhaging cash.

Portsmouth's Beneficial Foundation went into stasis on Friday after 40 years of operation, helping people with intellectual and physical disabilities into work through training.

In its heyday up to 60 people used the longstanding charity's services but it was forced to slim down to just two staff and a handful of volunteers helping 15 people.

Blind Leon Powell, from Quintrel Avenue, Fareham, has for 10 years been taking part in gardening at the charity, which leases a building in Cumberland Gate but was formerly at Anson Road in Milton.

'I don't know what I'm going to be doing or where I'm going to go but what I know is there needs to be more jobs for disabled people,' Mr Powell said.

'There needs to be more help, support and training.

'The able and disabled should be trained and work together so everyone has the same opportunities.

'It's a shame that a charity, such as the Beneficial Foundation, that tries to do this, is closing down after 40 years of operating.'

Latest publicly-available accounts show income dropped by two-thirds from 2012/2013 levels down to £220,979 in the financial year ending March 2017. 

Spending was slashed from £569,588 to £300,210 in the same period as trustees struggled to stem the losses.

Trustee David Horne said options were being looked at but the tough decision was taken after a slow down in agencies referring people to the charity.

Speaking of the effect on its clients, Mr Horne said: 'It's devastating, absolutely devastating.

'I feel for them completely and talking to the students down there - and they obviously talk to us very openly - they say exactly  that: "we're shutting down, we don't know where to go next”.

'All I can do is apologise and say sorry we're forced into this situation.'

The charity, whose chief executive was until recently Jennie Brent, who is also a Portsmouth city councillor, had seen a steady drop in referrals from the council over four years.

Mr Horne said: 'We couldn't carry on doing the same thing every week, the same students, and lose money for the next four years.

'That's not a good use for people or for a charitable organisation to keep on losing money like that.

'We had to come to the conclusion that we had to stop.'

The Charity Commission for England and Wales says trustees must have 'appropriate procedures and safeguards' to secure an organisation's assets.

Mr Horne said the charity, which does have assets and cash in the bank, would be in trouble if it continued to lose money and not attract new funded clients.

The city council said the charity did not apply to provide its services to the authority when the council carried out a reorganisation in 2016. 

A spokesman added: ‘People also have personal budgets that they can spend on service providers. In recent years, fewer people have chosen to use the Beneficial Foundation.’