Charity Probe Into Collapse Of Nursery Care Provider

Scotland’s charities watchdog is to investigate the finances and operations of a child care provider which collapsed with the loss of almost 600 jobs. News that the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR) will meet the liquidators of One Plus comes as one of the UK’s biggest charity funders confirms it refused funding because of serious financial concerns.

One Plus had asked the Big Lottery for £1m for two projects over 18 months ago due to question marks over the financial viability of the entire operation.

OSCR’s meeting with KPMG is likely to focus on the viability of One Plus projects and how funds from a range of sources were used to finance these.

A meeting took place yesterday of the creditors of KidCare, the One Plus subsidiary which provided creche facilities at Glasgow and Strathclyde universities, as well as the Scottish Parliament before going under in early December with the loss of 75 jobs.

Since One Plus went into liquidation late last month, questions have been posed over how long the finances were in a perilous state. Senior former One Plus staff have told The Herald that cashflow problems were so severe in recent years that the cost of a week’s care rose from £40 to £110 in a year.

But by the time it went into liquidation it was owed over £600,000 in unpaid nursery fees, some families owing thousands. Sources have also warned about the repercussions for other charities.

Jane Ryder, OSCR chief executive, confirmed its investigations team would be looking into the position with the charity’s liquidator. She said: “We expect to draw out lessons for all charities who are providing important national and local services, whatever their size.”

Kirsty Gray, OSCR’s head of investigations, said: “Our monitoring system is designed to identify possible financial and governance issues and it is worth noting that One Plus was due to lodge its annual return and accounts with us by January 31.”

Former staff have also said the organisation was in a constant state of warding off creditors. Despite this the senior management continued to expand services. This shortcoming was highlighted by the Big Lottery.

A spokesman said: “We became concerned the speed of One Plus’s expansion might compromise its financial health.”

One Plus’s auditors, French Duncan, highlighted expansion and subsequent cashflow problems as a reason for collapse.

Last night, David Coyne, One Plus chief executive, also confirmed the Big Lottery refusal. He said: “We met Big Lottery representatives again in November and December 2006 and while they were supportive of One Plus they said they would need much more information that the organisation was financially sustainable.” He said he could only speak about other issues surrounding the collapse once KPMG had concluded its investigation.