New code will keep high street shoppers safe from 'chuggers'

Conducted properly, fundraising on the street is a valuable source of revenue for charities

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The Independent Online

So-called "chuggers" or "street fundraisers" are seen by many as the scourge of the high street, but a new code of conduct may see shoppers across Britain breathe a sigh of relief as it sets out to curb aggressive money collecting which has plagued the practice.

A code, drawn up with the support of the Local Government Association, is designed protect the public from over-zealous fundraisers, with curbs on where they can set up, for how long and how many charities can walk the high street at any one time.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association (PFRA), which oversees street charity work, has drawn up the agreement to improve and maintain standards of charity workers fundraising on the street. A recent LGA survey showed that three out of four councils were concerned about the impact of aggressive face-to-face fundraising. Tactics have included following people down the street and pretending they've dropped something to start a conversation.

Yet the practice has been acknowledged, when conducted properly, as a valuable source of revenue for charities. Street fundraisers recruited 240,000 new donors in the 12 months to this April, raising £45m.

The PFRA and LGA's code, dubbed "Making the Pledge", covers issues from the location of fundraisers and the numbers of charities on the street, to clear identification of the team leaders, the hours and days they can operate as well as monitoring by the PFRA.

It hopes to make addressing problems "transparent and accountable" and outline sanctions should the voluntary code be breached.

The PFRA already works with 52 councils and said there was a marked difference after their controls were introduced. A spokesman pointed to Portsmouth, where there had been 50 complaints a month until controls were brought in last August. Since then it has fallen to just two a month.

Councillor Mehboob Khan, the leader of Kirklees Council and chair of the LGA's safer and stronger communities board, says: "A sensible balance needs to be struck between charities' duties to ask people for support and the rights of local people not to be put under undue pressure to give."

The issue had proved hugely contentious and caused tension between the fundraising body and some councils which believed they should deal with the problem themselves.

The agreement, which was described as a memorandum of understanding, could restart negotiations with those councils, the PFRA said.

Paul Stallard, chairman of the PFRA, said: "Street fundraising is a vital and cost-effective form of fundraising for those charities that rely on it. But we cannot deny that it is controversial."

He continued that following the official support of the LGA "I am confident that street fundraising can continue to provide new donors and new money for as long as charities need to use this method".