RSPCA lone workers visiting violent animal owners face risk of attack, as the ‘failure of management’ crisis continues to dog the 196-year-old charity, Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, warned today (Monday 14 September).

Unite also warned long-serving employees of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) could lose their ‘homes for life’, as the charity plans to sack nearly 300 workers to plug a £47 million funding gap, as well closing four animal centres.

Unite said there is no reason for these swingeing cuts as the RSPCA could dip into its £60 million of reserves to tide it over the crisis caused by the pandemic.

The union also highlights that the charity is expected to give four of its departing top bosses handsome pay-offs, which seriously undermines its ‘lack of cash’ mantra.

The threat to RSPCA officers, who have been lone working for many years, is now made worse by the job cuts resulting in officers having to travel to areas beyond their local knowledge.

This has also been compounded by a new incident handling system which means that frontline staff can no longer access the database of violent animal owners.

Unite national officer for not for profit Siobhan Endean said: “What we have here is a continuing failure of management to utilise the RSPCA’s reserves of £60 million to tide it over the funding gap caused by the pandemic.

“The priority seems to be handsome pay-offs to top bosses leaving under a cloud, rather than the welfare of ‘all creatures great and small’ which is why the charity was founded in the first place. The management and trustees have lost their way.

“The fact RSPCA officers may now have to face possibly violent members of the public when responding to reports of animal cruelty, without access to the database detailing the past conduct of such individuals, is a scandal and potentially unlawful.

“The litany of managerial ineptitude and unpleasantness again comes to the fore with the risk that workers who, in their employment contracts have ‘homes for life’, now face being turfed out onto the street and made homeless.

“Once more, Unite urges RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood to sit down with us to chart a constructive way through this short-term crisis that upholds the charity’s deeply embedded philosophy of animal welfare and responsibility for those employees who dedicate their lives caring for the country’s animals.”

Unite is currently assisting its members who have to apply for a much diminished number of jobs and pursuing cases where the proper procedures have not been followed, such as pregnancy discrimination.

Unite has already highlighted to the RSPCA the Charity Commission guidance to organisations which sets out the options of utilising reserves, designated funds and permanent endowment assets to address financial difficulties during the current crisis.

Siobhan Endean added: “We will be conducting a public facing campaign during the autumn to make donors in particular and the public generally aware of what is happening at one of the country’s best loved and well-supported national institutions.”


Notes to editors:

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065.

Please note the numbers above are for journalists’ enquiries only.

Email: [email protected]

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Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.