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Norwich call centre goes into liquidation leading to the loss of 150 jobs

08:44 16 March 2016

Closure of Insight CCI. MD Melvyn Hill.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Closure of Insight CCI. MD Melvyn Hill. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

A Norwich fundraising call centre has gone into liquidation with the loss of up to 150 jobs, with managers citing mounting pressure from industry watchdogs.

Insight CCI suffered from a regulatory clampdown and adverse publicity after the death of 92-year-old poppy seller Olive Cooke in Bristol last year, said managing director Melvyn Hill.

The company piled up debts of more than £700,000 after charities, fearing a negative reaction from continuing to use fundraising agencies, withdrew their business.

Staff were given just a few days’ notice of the closure on February 26, and have said they are still waiting for their wages.

Mr Hill said he had done everything he could to help employees, but conditions at the firm, based in St Andrews Hill, had become too difficult to carry on.

“We thought we could ride this storm but we couldn’t,” he said. “The negative publicity turned on us, the sector and also charities themselves.

“Our objective has been to raise money for good causes but we were finding the charities were afraid to make decisions and afraid to use people like us.”

The tough conditions for fundraising agencies came after Mrs Cooke took her own life in May after being sent almost 3,000 mailings from charities in a year, according to the Fundraising Standards Board (FSB).

A report from the FSB said Mrs Cooke’s family had indicated the “cumulative impact” of the number of organisations mailing her had made her feel “distressed and overwhelmed”, and the public outcry over her death led to intense scrutiny into charity fundraisers.

Until August last year fundraisers were allowed to contact people on a “no-call list” - the Telephone Preference Service - if they were already donors to the charity, but the rules were tightened following her death.

Insight CCI, which raised money for charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Diabetes UK, is thought to be the seventh call centre to go under since the climate became tougher.

Andrew Kelsall, insolvency partner at accountancy firm Larking Gowen, said Insight CCI’s directors had first approached him in November, where they came up with a plan to pay off debts with a Company Voluntary Arrangement - an agreement with the firm’s creditors.

“However according to the directors the market for charity conditions continued to deteriorate, and by early February 2016 the directors spoke to me again about how the CVA wasn’t going to work,” said Mr Kelsall. “The only real solution was a liquidation.”

Mr Kelsall, who is the liquidator, said the company had assets of about £146,000 and liabilities of £775,000 - including £120,000 of holiday pay and arrears of wages owed to employees. Workers would be preferential creditors up to £800 each, he said.

Former employee Emily Eastman, 19, of Thurton near Loddon, had worked at the call centre since September.

“I am in a really tough position,” she said. “I was last paid at the end of January. It feels like I’m living off my parents again.”

Miss Eastman, who lives with her 19-year-old partner Jordan Stone, said she was owed £863 by the company, but was concerned she would not be eligible for redundancy pay as her and 30 other staff members were dismissed days before Insight CCI went into liquidation.

A spokesman for the Institute of Fundraising, the professional membership body for UK fundraising, said it was producing new guidance for charities on best practice in managing relationships with fundraising companies.

The spokesman said: “This is very regrettable news that Insight CCI, a fundraising agency with a track record of delivering fundraising campaigns for charities over many years, has ceased operating. It is a tough climate for many fundraising organisations at the moment who work to raise important funds for vital causes across the country.”

Do you have a business story? Email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk

25 comments

  • Im reponse ti Julian, I torally agree. And after today's update we've all received, I for one will be getting in touch with archant and letting them know EXACTLY how this has effected us all, nevermind the "Owner". I'm FUMING to say the least!!

    Report this comment

    Laura Cowell

    Friday, March 18, 2016

  • There is one other thing about this: it's a story about a company going into liquidation and people losing their jobs, yet the editors have posted a photo of the boss smiling. It says it all really, about both Archant and Mr. Hill.

    Report this comment

    Julian Radbourne

    Friday, March 18, 2016

  • I was employed by insight at the time and would just like to say we had strict guidelines to follow, rules and regulations which we all followed otherwise it was instant dissmal. If you want to slate people I suggest you start with the charities admin as they took a percentage more than us getting the support for them. EVERYONE we called had opted in to receive calls expressed an interest in the charity so no we wasn't targeting "Fraile old ladies" they wanted to hear from us. At the end of the day we was just doing our job, which we probably aren't even going to get paid for so I think perhaps you should see it from our point of view aswell.

    Report this comment

    Tonya Clifton

    Thursday, March 17, 2016

  • I was one of the people who lost my job here. To be fair for the comment on how much in a pound went to charity, I believe it was 8485p. But no defence on insights part. Melvyn hill has had multiple companies shut down. It's roumered he's starting a new company in the Same building at st Andrews hill in Norwich city. I've lost over 1400 pounds due to the liquidation we were not warned about or notified about the CVA in november. The way we were dealt with was disgusting. The embarrasment on charities behalf is horrible yet melvyn hill gets to go home to his nicely paid for house and a jaguar in the garage. Whilst we cannot pay rent or due bills and charities have lost thousands. I don't expect one pound of what I'm owed to be fair. I hope this guy stops one day and thinks what he is doing.

    Report this comment

    Sami-d Lewsley

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • @Trev57, i am very well educated and i worked within the health profession for many many years until it became more like a business, one of my ex patients nominated me for a job in a "call centre" and i worked there for 10 years and loved it. Call centres are also where emergency calls are taken, i guess its not the "call centres" fault but that of the employers that you should be referring to?

    Report this comment

    Sayitlikeitis

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • This company also had an appalling reputation with job seekers. For instance, when I applied for a position with them they phoned me about five minutes after I e-mailed my application. The lady I spoke to was extremely rude and quite patronising. She was annoyed that I hadn't prepared for an interview immediately and became angry that I'd applied for jobs with other companies. While it's sad that people are losing their jobs it's not sad that a company with such an awful reputation is going down the toilet. As others have intimated I'm sure the bosses won't lost any sleep, or any pay.

    Report this comment

    Julian Radbourne

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Trev57, did you vote Tory? From your comment that the people who have been made redundant should go and find another job, I guess you must have done. This government is responsible for the exponential growth of charities as it has decimated the services we used to expect our taxes to fund. And they have encouraged the growth of nasty bullying employers offering cr** wages and conditions whilst ensuring that the bosses are well looked after.

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • My question is why are there so many charities, there seems to be a charity for everything possible, towns are full of charity shops, where do they get all their stock?. It is sad for people when they lose their job but it is just a job, go find another one or go and get a better education so you don't have to work in a call centre.

    Report this comment

    trev57

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Charles Dickens would have had a field day with the notion of professional beggars being denied their wages after revenue dried up due to outrage over an example of their aggressive predation on a vulnerable person. People are compelled to work and I feel for those losing their jobs, but for Fagin and his ilk, the only feeling is contempt. I reccomend those people who give to charities regularly, to research how much the senior execs of those charities are being paid, and what percentage of the money those charities succesfully begs, goes on "Administration".

    Report this comment

    Catseye

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Very sad. But why has the EDP still not run a story on the 150 job losses from the closure of HMRC's last office in Norfolk? There will then be a temporary office in Ipswich - when that shuts, the nearest HMRC office will be London.

    Report this comment

    Tarquin

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • "I have no sympathy for anyone previously employed at this company, its actions were just wrong and anyone employed there was implicit in such actions !" Perhaps Cal would be able to advise those former employees on how best to achieve better employment prospects in difficult economic circumstances. To infer that people i.e. employees on minimum wage and under pressure to achieve sales targets, are acting wrong is typical of an armchair critic with no knowledge of the fundraising sector. Charities actively sought and used these fundraising methods which were regulated. Fundraising costs money unless those who do volunteer their time for free. Many people complain about being contacted by organisations such as Insight whilst failing to realise that they themselves had signed up to marketing activities via any number of online or paper-based advertising because they didn't read the terms and conditions properly. The employees in a call centre such as this often face 8 hours of mind-numbing tedium and hostile reactions; all they were doing was working, which is better than claiming welfare, no? With cuts to Further Education funding, and slim-pickings when it comes to any sort of other "meaningful" employment, it is no wonder fundraising became a viable source of employment. That is not the fault of the employees, it is the consequence of disastrous government decisions that affect the ability for anyone from a lower socioeconomic background to better themselves. The Institute of Fundraising should have done much more to monitor and prevent the volume of marketing activities carried out by charities which, sadly, resulted in the death of the elderly lady and over a hundred people now finding themselves unemployed and owed wages.

    Report this comment

    BobBrowneCanary

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I have no sympathy for anyone previously employed at this company, its actions were just wrong and anyone employed there was implicit in such actions !

    Report this comment

    cal

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • i hope the staff get their pay but I cant say I am sorry that the vile practice of preying on the elderly the vulnerable and lonely people will be greatly reduced . The end does not justify the means I prefer to support The Air Ambulance and British Legion by monthly entry into a lottery just over £4 a month each simple to do by direct debit

    Report this comment

    Glenys Bright

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I am sorry so many people have lost their jobs but Charities need to drop firms like these and do their own fund rasing to be sure of what is being said and done in their name.

    Report this comment

    old boy

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I am sure if Mr Hill keeps his eyes firmly in the dirtiest most unpleasant gutters he will find further similar business opportunities. I do feel sorry for the victims of his so called business both the call makers who have, it seems, to have lost money & also the call receivers. But it is good to see these vile call centres suffering the end they so obviously deserve.

    Report this comment

    el84

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I was there for two years. Most people were lucky to get to three months. Terrible employer, but karma seems to have worked on them. I'm sorry for the real workers, but not the "management".

    Report this comment

    Paul Radbourne

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • These were a good example of the wonderful jobs that Osborne has created.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Not surprised. They were a terrible company to work for.

    Report this comment

    Mr Majika

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Think it was about 25p in the pound that the charity earned. A sales person (depending on skill level) would have a certain number of pitches to "sell" I used to work for Insight CCI, and when my missus was heavily in labour they refused me time off to sort her out so I told them where to go, when I got back I was signed off by doctor. not a good company to work for.

    Report this comment

    Keiran Clements

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I've always wondered what percentage of your donation actually end up with the intended charity when given this way. What kind of 'commission' does the call centre get ?

    Report this comment

    Johny

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • I am sorry that people have lost their jobs - even ones as naff as these. However, I am sure Mr Hill will be okay financially.

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Some of the former employee reviews on glassdoor website are"interesting" to say the least....LOL. Described as a "stinkpit" with no air-con, headsets covered in other people's hair-grease and ear-wax, disgusting loos..etc etc

    Report this comment

    tractorbeam

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • cal & arfur, i agree totally, we are well rid of these sort of operators.

    Report this comment

    ted

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Well said Cal. I am sorry for all the employees who have lost their jobs. I bet Melvyn Hill is okay financially though!

    Report this comment

    arfur

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

  • Good riddance !!!!!!

    Report this comment

    cal

    Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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