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Alarm raised over clothes collectors

PUBLISHED: 10:25 20 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:48 03 July 2010

FAMILIES were last night warned that a doorstep clothes collection business, Helpmates Limited, which has begun operating in Norfolk is a commercial company rather than a charity.

FAMILIES were last night warned that a doorstep clothes collection business, Helpmates Limited, which has begun operating in Norfolk is a commercial company rather than a charity.

A retired nurse experienced in charity work became instantly suspicious when a leaflet appealing for clothes for Third World countries arrived through her letterbox in Halvergate, near Yarmouth, at the weekend because it had no Charity Commission number on it.

She noticed that the blue leaflet included phrases that might make people think it was a charity such as 'We urgently need clothing' and 'Third World clothing collection' in large letters, whereas a line stating that Helpmates Limited was a commercial company was in much smaller print.

During a search on the internet, she discovered that trading standards departments across Britain, from Scotland to Cornwall, have alerted residents about the operating methods of Helpmates Limited, a business based in Hornchurch

“I think this is appalling. There are a lot of old ladies in the village who would gladly put out clothes or give their last penny thinking they were helping a genuine charity,” she said.

The practices of Helpmates Limited, which is believed to sell the clothes in Eastern Europe, have been a concern nationally for more than two years and have even been raised in Parliament by Scottish MP Jo Swinson.

Steven Reilly, a spokesman for Norfolk County Council trading standards, said it was the first time they had been made aware of Helpmates Limited operating in Norfolk.

He said: “Door to door clothing collections can be completely legitimate but there is on occasion cause for concern. Some unscrupulous traders will make collections without any subsequent donation to the charities concerned. This particular company are not purporting to be a charity however.

“If you are in any doubt as to the validity of the clothing collection it is best to use your local charity shop, or charity collection bin, where you will know the recipient organisation of your donation.”

David Moir, a spokesman for the Association of Charity Shops, said: “These kinds of bogus collections have been around for years and the last time we made an estimate on this, legitimate charities were losing £2.5m to £3m a year because of it.

“Although that is a very small proportion of charity shops' total stocks, there is the serious issue of it damaging the public's confidence in charity collections.”

He said people could log on to their website - charityshops.org.uk - to view the Code of Charity Retailing intended to promote good practise.

Despite calls it was not possible to make contact with Helpmates Limited.


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