Regulator investigating complaints against Social Bite homelessness charity
An acclaimed social enterprise charity that has raised millions of pounds to help tackle homelessness is being investigated by Scotland’s charities watchdog, it has emerged.
Social Bite has attracted headlines the world over thanks to the support of high-profile figures including Prince Harry, the Duchess of Cambridge, Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney.
From its roots at a small cafe in Edinburgh’s Rose Street a decade ago, Social Bite has become a leading homelessness charity, with its Housing First initiative backed by £6.5 million of Scottish Government money.
But having received complaints about Social Bite, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) confirmed that a probe is underway.
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The Times reported it is understood concerns were expressed about Josh Littlejohn, Social Bite’s founder, who was made an MBE in 2016.
It claims Jane Bruce, Social Bite’s former chief executive officer for Scotland, has lodged formal complaints to the OSCR.
A spokesman for the OSCR said: “We have received concerns about this charity, which are currently being examined in the usual way, according to our published policies.”
Sir Andrew Cubie, Social Bite’s chairman, said: ”We can confirm that we are in communication with OSCR relating to concerns they have received. In line with OSCR’s policy we are unable to provide any further information at this time.
“Under my chairmanship, Social Bite adheres to the highest levels of governance. In spite of the global pandemic, the charity has gone from strength to strength.”
He said Mr Littlejohn had worked “tirelessly” over the past decade and had helped “thousands of vulnerable people off the streets”.
“He’s incredibly well respected and well liked by the Social Bite team, partners and the homeless community,” he added.
There has been a significant turnover in senior officials at Social Bite’s parent entity, the Social Bite Fund.
Its accounts show five of its trustees resigned within a four-day period in May last year. Mr Littlejohn, who also spearheaded the World’s Big Sleep Out charity event in 2019, stepped down as a trustee in December 2020.
The accounts add Mr Littlejohn, having been group CEO of Social Bite, was now one of three executive directors following a review of the charity’s governance structure.
The filing shows he received remuneration totalling £51,079 for the 12 months to May 31, 2021, down from £75,136 the previous year.
In February this year, Mr Littlejohn stepped down as a director of two other subsidiaries – Social Bite Limited and Social Bite Restaurants Limited.
In a statement, Mr Littlejohn said Social Bite had been on an “incredible journey” over the past decade and he was “very lucky” to be surrounded by a “brilliant team”.
He said: “As the charity has matured, it is only right that it becomes less reliant on its founder. For the last few years I’ve been working with our board to put in place a new structure which allows me to focus on my passion for developing new and innovative projects to help homeless people.
“It is a privilege to do what I do and, with the support of our chair, trustees and the dedication of our team, we remain focused on our goal of ending homelessness at a time when help is needed more than ever.”