St John Ambulance has been forced to suspend its fundraising agency following accusations that its staff were trained to target elderly people who lived alone because it was “easier to get them to sign up”.
Door-to-door fundraising specialist Wesser International has worked for the chairty since 1997, but according to an undercover report in The Sun – under the headline ‘Sickening. Ambulance Charity’s Fury’ – staff have been encouraged to target vulnerable consumers.
The Sun also alleges that Wesser takes 45p of every pound donated for the first two years of a donor’s contributions.
To compound the issue, the newspaper exposed that Wesser’s founder, Martin Wesser, had a “luxurious lifestyle” and even owned a penthouse worth £1m in Madrid.
St John Ambulance chief executive Sue Killen said in a statement that the charity condemned any targeting of elderly and vulnerable people.
She added: “We have suspended all activity with Wesser and have launched a full investigation into these claims. Immediate and appropriate action will be taken if there is found to be any truth in them.”
Killen insisted that three quarters of the supporters signed up by Wesser were aged between 25 and 59 and that St John Ambulance had a policy of not approaching anyone over the age of 75 for monthly donations.
A spokesman for Wesser said the agency had asked The Sun for details of the trainer exposed in the coverage because it wanted to investigate the individual and take the appropriate disciplinary action “which in this case would be immediate dismissal”.
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