In a result that shocked many in a nation trying to deal with addiction in positive ways, Lifeline, one of the United Kingdom’s “leading drug and alcohol treatment” charities abruptly shuttered its doors and closed up shop. This move came on the heels of an announced investigation by the British Charity Commission into claims that the nonprofit was operating with “weak financial controls,” according to The Guardian.
The closure not only affects the addicts being helped by the charity but also 1,300 workers who need those jobs. But just how many addicts could be hurt by this closure? According to records provided by the Lifeline Project, the organization helped up to 80,000 people each year, including prisoners in 22 jails and institutionalized youthful offenders.
Workers and those being helped by the now former Lifeline might have a way out, as they have been told the organization was hoping to transfer services to other providers. This could mean open jobs and service offerings … but many fear there’s a very good chance there will be some drop-off of both.
Lifeline, founded in 1971, has grown for more than four decades into a massive organization that saw its income more than double over the past few years. The charity had been on the regulator’s radar for several years after the previous director was forced out due to his “excessive” expense claims. This and other reports prompted allegations of financial mismanagement that have dogged the nonprofit for several years now. And the relatively recent and very public failures of two other major UK charities have all eyes focused on others.
Regulators and consumer advocacy groups say it is absolutely essential that these large and very prevalent charities have all their ducks in a row, and that they maintain a high level of intentional transparency. Lifeline, they claim, failed to do so, and they lost the public trust.
Concerns not only about the drastic increases in funding but also the relative lack of financial reserves frustrated certain board members and a fair few major donors. As these frustrations failed to be addressed, the board says they were forced to take action. Trustees for the nonprofit have now shifted their concern to placing both the services and the employees in other similar charities so that the work Lifeline has been doing for a generation can continue. No word, yet, on what that will look like or how that’s going. One thing that is certain: other British nonprofits need to check their own financial health, and they need to make sure they’re not the next group that comes under scrutiny … and, if they are, they can make it through unscathed.