Southwark News investigation into CoolTan collapse seeks news/opinion

Just last week BBC Radio 4 completed its 3 part series 'The Charity Business', which examines how charities work, asks what they're for and how accountability can be improved to assist an better cost/benefit equation (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09w87yd). 

Coincidentally, it was reported last week by Third Sector, the volunteer and not-for-profit journal, that prominent South London-based mental health charity CoolTan Arts owed more than £70,000 when it recently collapsed. (https://bit.ly/2nW7tTh)

In June, CoolTan chair Lilian Nalumansi informed volunteers and beneficiaries that due to a difficult funding climate, CoolTan could not continue trading (https://bit.ly/2BvkBsb). This has been revealed in a letter from Nalumansi published in Third Sector. (http://cached.offlinehbpl.hbpl.co.uk/NewsAttachments/NST/CooltanArts.pdf).

The article goes on to note that the charity "... had an income of £269,000 in the year to 31 March 2017, but spent £407,600, according to the latest accounts filed on the Charity Commission website.

Its spending has outstripped income for the past three financial years, the commission website shows." (https://bit.ly/2MoLiUd).

There have been no posts on the charity’s social media since mid-June.

“The charity has faced a rocky couple of years after founder and chief executive Michele Baharier was suspended in September 2015 when allegations of bullying were made against her. Baharier denied the allegations.

She in turn alleged she had been intimidated and harassed by a board member, which the charity denied.

Baharier was dismissed in May 2016. She has taken the charity to tribunal and the judgment is expected in September, Third Sector understands.” (https://bit.ly/2MGSWbP)

Brooke Manning, Southwark News journalist, is launching an investigation into these developments. She seeks first person accounts, especially from former users, with respect to the history of events and to recent service, the role of CoolTan founder and artist Michelle Baharier and that of certain CoolTan trustees with whom Baharier has been engaged in the on-going two year legal battle.

Have you been a service user? How did it help you? What do you think forced liquidation? Do you feel there remains a need for an organisation like CoolTan which provides professional skills from within arts and self-advocacy? Just some of the possible lines of enquiry. If you have any news/opinion to share, contact Brooke Manning at: news@southwarknews.co.uk