The charity which wasn't: Questions over lottery funded PTSD group which claimed to be charity
PUBLISHED: 17:40 15 February 2019 | UPDATED: 17:40 15 February 2019
The National Lottery has begun an investigation into how it paid £46,000 to a Cambridgeshire support group which was struck off within months of the payment being made.
Last July the National Lottery – through its People’s Project community fund – paid a company called The Blue Hero Foundation Limited, known as PTSD999, £46,000. The year before that it had paid PTSD999 another £10,000.
But none of those payments are listed in the company’s accounts and six months after being awarded the £46,000 last summer the company was compulsory struck off from Companies House. No reason for the strike off is given.
The money was meant to help the company, which is registered in Hardwick but with offices at Croydon near Royston, with its work through to June 2019 supporting emergency service staff suffering with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to the National Lottery website.
A spokesperson at The National Lottery Community Fund, said: “We are aware of the situation and are looking into it.
“As the UK’s largest community funder we take our responsibilities very seriously.
“If any concerns are raised about a project we have funded, we will always make it a priority to look into it – it’s important the grants we award are used for the purpose stated and to help the community as intended.”
An investigation by this newspaper has raised concerns about the running of Blue Hero Foundation Ltd and a company it is linked to called PTSD999 Ltd.
The two men behind PTSD999 Ltd are Gary Hayes and Simon Lee. Mr Hayes was a director of The Blue Hero Foundation and is a director of PTSD999 Ltd while Mr Lee was not shown as a director of The Blue Hero Foundation Ltd although he did sign off their annual accounts in April 2018 as “director”.
Mr Lee is also a director of PTSD999 Ltd.
The company was first set up in 2016 before changing its name to GSJ Security Ltd. That firm was then struck off in March 2018, while a new firm also called PTSD999 was set up by Mr Hayes and Mr Lee in February 2017.
PTSD999 Ltd has repeatedly been presented as a charity when it is not. It is a private company and is not registered with the Charity Commission.
Its founders and supporters have falsely described it as a charity on several occasions, while raising its profile and funds.
Both men told the Cambridge Independent ahead of a fundraising event in October 2017, they were both former soldiers who had started the “charity” and planned a not-for-profit company that would employ former emergency workers who have left their jobs because of PTSD.
Both described how they suffered from PTSD and how they wanted emergency workers to benefit from the same support as the military.
In 2016 PTSD999 called itself a “charity” on Twitter ahead of a radio interview.
The following year they told social media followers “Big Lottery Fund is supporting your charity PTSD999” and in July 2017 they posted to Twitter that they were a “new charity support group”.
Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite thought he was the patron of the “PTSD999 charity” whilst Mayor of Cambridgeshire James Palmer tweeted in 2017 “congratulations to Simon Lee on the opening of new offices for his incredible charity PTSD999”.
A year later the Mayor announced his first charity ball – in aid of PTSD999.
However controversy over the final sum raised by the ball prompted inquiries of PTSD999 and the discovery that it was not a charity.
The ball also raised eyebrows among councillors on Mayor Palmer’s combined authority when it slipped out that Mr Lee was a former candidate for the Conservatives in Cambridge City and a former chairman of the Cambridge Conservative Association.
And it was whilst a candidate that Mr Lee endorsed an election leaflet which stated he “runs a charity for veterans and ex emergency services personnel called PTSD999”.
Mr Ablewhite has since distanced himself from PTSD999 Ltd, insisting it was a ‘clerical error’ that led to him declaring he was a patron.
Mr Ablewhite is not the only prominent figure to ask for his name to be removed from the PTSD999 Ltd website.
This week’s its “president” also stepped down.
Lord Balfe of Dulwich – a former MEP – was contacted by this newspaper about his support for PTSD999 and said he was surprised to hear he was its president.
“I thought I was just a patron,” he said. “I have not heard anything from them for at least a year.”
What PTSD999 say
Mr Lee spoke openly about his work when first contacted by this newspaper, explaining how busy the organisation was and how much effort it had put into counselling and to attending presentations to fire, police, armed services and health staff.
Asked about the lottery funds he said: “Well they must have been happy with everything we did because the following year they invited us to re-apply, this time for a larger sum.”
He said PTSD999 was a “social enterprise not for profit” company but accepted there was “work to be done” in preparing it for charitably status.
This week after the resignation of Lord Balfe he responded to our enquiries by email pointing out that “over the last few months we have been going through some structural changes within the organisation and unfortunately currently the website is not fully up to date as we rely on volunteers to update and change information as and when they can, not always ideal unfortunately.”
He added: “However rest assured we will hopefully complete all the relevant changes by the end of February beginning of March; ideally we would take the website off until the changes have been made, but it’s also a useful resource to sufferers, so we decided to keep it on line.”
He asked to be emailed a series of further questions to which the company is yet to reply.
When we visited the offices of PTSD999 at Croydon near Royston, which were opened in June 2017 by Mayor James Palmer, there were no outward signs to say it was the home of PTSD999.
There was no name plate over the door: at the entrance to the trading estate a communal sign of businesses based there says “Blue Foundation, Unit 10”.
Calls to the office landline – which says is open daily from 9am to 5pm – went unanswered.