THE CHARITY Commission has opened an inquiry into SPAC Nation following reports that young congregation members were coerced into taking out loans that plunged them into debt.
The charity watchdog will examine financial, governance and safeguarding matters at the charity.
SPAC Nation, described as a charity set up to advance Christianity, has in the past been praised for its work to steer former gang members away from a life of crime, but serious allegations about the church have placed it at the centre of controversy.
In recent weeks allegations about the church pressuring young people to take out loans and donate blood for money have made national headlines.
An investigation by Huffington Post reported allegations from former SPAC Nation members who claimed that some young people in the congregation were pressured into “bleeding for seed”, a practice that involves selling blood donations for money that is then given to the church.
Spac Nation has denied all accusations.
A Charity Commission spokesperson said: “Charities exist to improve lives and strengthen society; the issues that have been raised related to SPAC Nation in recent weeks are highly concerning, even more so as the allegations are entirely at odds with the expectations about the way that charities will operate.
“The opening of this inquiry is an important step that will allow us to examine these concerns further and establish the facts. We will seek to provide assurance to the public and the community that these matters will be considered fully and, where necessary, resolved.”
On Monday, the BBC aired a Panorama investigation into Spac Nation.
Conned by My Church looked into the church’s fundraising activities and investigated young worshippers’ claims that they were forced into debt while Spac Nation leaders enjoy lavish lifestyles.
SPAC Nation has been subject to a regulatory compliance case since April 2018, which was opened to examine safeguarding and financial concerns about the charity.
In November 2019, some of the information submitted to the commission by the trustees in response raised further concerns about the charity’s financial controls, policy and procedures, the Charity Commission said.
It added: “Of immediate concern to the Commission is that substantial amounts of charity money are held in cash. As a protective measure, the Commission has issued an order under Section 84 of the Charities Act, requiring the charity to bank its money.”
The commission is also concerned about the apparent lack of clarity between the personal, business and charity roles of leaders within the charity.
The inquiry will look into, among other things, the adequacy of Spac Nation’s safeguarding practices, the extent to which its beneficiaries are being placed at risk and the extent to which the financial assets have been placed at risk by the charity operating largely outside of its current bank account and previously without one.