October 22, 2014;The Independent

The UK charity BeatBullying closed its peer mentoring website, as well as another website for MindFull, a program that it founded, with a message referring users to two other charities. A statement released by the trustees of BeatBullying said “a challenging financial environment” that it had “faced for some time” had recently turned into “significant financial difficulties.”

This may relate to a for-profit company that the charity set up in 2013 with a large grant from the UK Cabinet Office’s Social Action Fund. The Cabinet office awarded BeatBullying £1.3 million to set up a new charity to act as an umbrella organization. Part of this funding was applied to launching a (social enterprise) community interest company, We are Cosmo, to deliver the Cosmo software, developed and owned by Beatbullying, to other organizations.

We Are Cosmo was registered at Companies House, the for-profit company regulator, in February 2012. It should have filed its first set of accounts in November 2013. Companies House began the process of removing We Are Cosmo from its register in February 2014 but discontinued that action a month later, apparently after receiving supplementary information.

If both the charity and its spinoff social enterprise have collapsed, it may turn out to be another embarrassment for the UK Cabinet office, whose grantmaking has already been severely criticized.

The Charity Commission provides annual reports of registered charities online. Those for BeatBullying make interesting reading. Most interesting in 2012 is the appointment of an almost entire new board of trustees. The founder, Emma-Jane Cross, and one other are the only to have any longevity.

Also, buried in the notes to the accounts are statements to the following effect:

  •  “In 2013, BeatBullying completed the transition into the BBGroup with BeatBullying being just one of several programmes run by the charity.”
  • “As well as expanding its existing services, the charity has laid the foundations for MindFull, a new programme to improve the mental health of young people. MindFull was launched in July 2013.”
  • “The expansion of BeatBullying internationally is a critical development that will begin in earnest in 2013. The launch of BeatBullying’s work in Europe, and the delivery of its services into seven new countries is an exciting phase in the organisation’s history.”

There are also a number of references to the software program Cosmo, including this one related to an overspend on technology:

  • “This overspend was a strategically informed and calculated risk based on the potential for Cosmo technology to become a strong source of unrestricted income for BeatBullying. The overspend also reflects the difficulties in raising money for technological development in the third sector. This strategy—and the associated risk—was mandated by the Board of Trustees.”

The net loss in the accounts was £280,865 (US$450,000) for the year. After applying unrestricted reserves, the charity’s balance sheet showed a deficit of £196,500 (US$315,000). Trustees signed off the accounts, stating that on the basis of their judgment, the company was a going concern.

On the face of it, this appears to be the story of an organization that expanded too far too fast with an insufficient capital base and insufficient oversight.

In the meantime, a petition has been set up by concerned clients and supporters in an attempt to at least get the charity’s website back online.

Other associated social media sites, including its tumblr and its Facebook Page, continue to be online.—John Godfrey