NEWS
24/01/2018 11:14 GMT | Updated 24/01/2018 17:12 GMT

Great Ormond Street Among Hospitals To Return Presidents Club Donations Amid Lurid Harassment Claims

David Walliams, who hosted the event, said he was 'appalled'.

Key points

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital to return donations from the Presidents Club in light of sexual harassment allegations
  • Great Ormond Street received £530,000 from the Presidents Club between 2009 and 2016
  • David Mellor, chair of Presidents Club, steps down from Department of Education board
  • Advertising company WPP withdraws support from future fundraisers
  • Comedian David Walliams, who hosted the event, says he is “appalled” at the reports

Two major children’s hospitals have said they will be returning donations from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust after an undercover investigation exposed alleged sexual harassment at a men-only charity gala.

Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Evelina London Children’s Hospital will give back the money following a damning report in the Financial Times, which claimed female agency workers were repeatedly victims of groping and propositioning.

Great Ormond Street Hospital said that the Presidents Club donated £530,000 to the charity via three gifts between 2009 and 2016.

David Meller, chair of the Presidents Club, will be stepping down from the Department for Education board, it was announced in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

PA Wire/PA Images
Great Ormond Street Hospital is one of two major children's hospitals to return Presidents Club donations following sexual harassment allegations.

The Presidents Club states on its website that in its 33-year history it has raised more than £20 million for underprivileged children. According to the FT, Thursday’s event alone raised more than £2 million.

It is not clear how much money Great Ormond Street and Evelina London will return, however there are fears that children could miss out.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which is the largest membership body for English charities, said that “any reputable charity would be horrified to be associated with an event like this”.

The event was hosted by comedian David Walliams, who said on Wednesday that he was “absolutely appalled” by the reports of sexual harassment.

A Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity spokesperson said in a statement: “We are shocked to hear of the behaviour reported at the Presidents Club Charitable Trust fundraising dinner. We would never knowingly accept donations raised in this way.

“We have had no involvement in the organisation of this event, nor attended and we were never due to receive any money from it.

“All monies raised in our name go to support vital work. However, due to the wholly unacceptable nature of the event we are returning previous donations and will no longer accept gifts from the Presidents Club Charitable Trust.”

A spokesperson from Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the second largest provider of children’s services in London, said: “We are very alarmed by the allegations about the behaviour of some of those attending the Presidents Club fundraising dinner.

“This is not the kind of event we would wish to be associated with and we will therefore be declining funding from it and returning all previous donations from the Presidents Club.”

Other charities swiftly followed suit, with the Teenage Cancer Trust, which is listed as one of the charities to have received money from the Presidents Club in the last decade, stating: “We were disappointed to read about the details of the events hosted by the Presidents Club.

“We have received donations from the trust in the past, under good faith. As a charity, we are strongly opposed to the activities described in this report and fully support the position taken by the Institute of Fundraising.”

Tom Dixon, head of philanthropy at Scope, said: “We are appalled and disgusted by the behaviour uncovered at this event.

“As an organisation one of our guiding principles is everyday equality, and we apply that to all areas of our work.

“The Presidents Club made a single donation to us of £500 in 2015, towards one of our special schools.

“We will not apply for or accept any further donations from the Presidents Club.”

And a Barnardo’s spokesperson said: “This reported appalling behaviour is unacceptable and totally at odds with the highest ethical standards and values championed by Barnardo’s in treating all people equally and with respect.

“We welcome a full and prompt investigation into what happened and look forward to seeing appropriate action taken.”

Sexual harassment and misconduct has been in the limelight since the allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein broke last year, triggering a wave of revelations about powerful men spanning many industries.

Women who work in the hospitality sector told HuffPost UK at the time about the inappropriate incidents they had to endure while working in bars and restaurants, with some customers treating them as if they were “on the menu”.

A Trade Union Congress (TUC) report in 2016 into sexual harassment found that 67% of women in the hospitality and leisure industry reported experiencing some form of sexual harassment compared to an average of 52%.

Experts also told HuffPost UK that hospitality industry workers and those on temporary or zero hour contracts faced additional challenges in the work place due to a culture of silence.

Two undercover FT reporters posing as hostesses spent six hours at the “most un-PC event of the year” at the Dorchester Hotel last week.

Female staff were instructed to wear skimpy black outfits and matching underwear, the paper reports.

The paper reports that at an after-party, many of the female workers - some of them students - were “groped, sexually harassed and propositioned”, while among the prizes up for grabs at the evening’s fundraising auction were an evening at a Soho strip club and a course of plastic surgery to “add spice to your wife” for the lucky winner.

BBC
Undercover reporter behind the story, Madison Marriage.

One of the undercover reporters behind the story, Madison Marriage, appeared on BBC’s Newsnight on Tuesday to detail what she witnessed at the event, which has been running for 33 years.

Other hostesses included aspiring lawyers and marketing executives, she explained, as well as models, actresses and dancers who “do a lot of hostessing work to make ends meet because their work is not very regular”.

“I was groped several times,” she said. “I know numerous other hostesses said the same thing had happened to them.

“It is hands on skirts, hands on hips, on stomachs, arms going around your waist unexpectedly. Not high-level groping.

“One of the strangest things you could be talking to a man and he would suddenly start to hold your hand.”

Advertising company WPP, which had a table at this year’s event, announced on Tuesday that it will not be supporting the fundraiser in the future.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4′s Today programme on Wednesday, WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell, who was not at this year’s event, said: “If it’s true, which we checked with our people who were there at our table and they said they saw nothing of that kind, but we issued a statement last night saying that we won’t support the charity in future, which is regrettable because it is a charity that supports numerous children’s charities and has done a lot of good work.”

Responding to the allegations, the Presidents Club said: “The Presidents Club recently hosted its annual dinner, raising several million pounds for disadvantaged children.

“The organisers are appalled by the allegations of bad behaviour at the event asserted by the Financial Times reporters. Such behaviour is totally unacceptable.

“The allegations will be investigated fully and promptly and appropriate action taken.”

A statement from the Dorchester Hotel read: “We are unaware of any allegations and should we be contacted we will work with the relevant authorities as necessary.”