Red tape prevents Leeds fundraiser from collecting cash for Children in Need

Stephen Wakefield, 54, pictured with son Daniel, has raised �80,000 for Children in Need. PIC: Steve Riding
Stephen Wakefield, 54, pictured with son Daniel, has raised �80,000 for Children in Need. PIC: Steve Riding
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A devoted fundraiser says red tape is leaving him blue, after strict rules on licencing and health and safety in much of the city left him unable to collect cash for Children in Need.

For 17 years, Stephen Wakefield has undertaken a marathon walk from Ilkley to Leeds for the annual charity extravaganza, which returns to our TV screens next Friday.

Travelling with Pudsey bear and Stephen’s son Daniel - the bear travelling in Daniel’s childhood pram and Stephen often wearing a diving suit - the family has raised £50,000 thanks to generous passers-by dropping their spare change into Pudsey’s hat.

Even Stephen’s own late father Alan regularly joined the multi-generational fundraising effort, doing his last walk at the age of 81. He passed away in 2012.

In total, the family has raised £80,000 over 25 years.

But increasingly 54-year-old Stephen says he has found that red tape is hampering his family’s efforts in public spaces and shopping centres.

Stephen, from Alwoodley, said: “Last year the police stopped us because they thought we were collecting in the city centre.

“One shopping centre in Leeds said I would need public liability insurance. Where on earth do you get that for one day?

“Another allowed me to collect for nine years, but then had a change of management and the rules changed.

He said he is very grateful for previous support from businesses, but believes an increasingly litigious culture - combined with charity fatigue fuelled by the ‘chugging’ epidemic - is leaving many genuine grassroots fundraisers out in the cold.

However he is determined to keep pushing towards the £100,000 milestone and beyond.

The YEP contacted several shopping centres in Leeds and was told, in most cases, insurance and risk assessment paperwork has to be submitted before applications to collect charity money can be considered.

However some individual businesses do allow bucket and tin collections - for example supermarkets - and collecting licences can be granted ad hoc.

Several malls have chosen charities whom they allow to collect regularly on the premises, and others consider outside applications based on space available.

But the majority admit that health and safety risks are a key off-putting factor.

A spokesperson for Children in Need said: “We are so grateful for the support of all of our fundraisers.

“It is because of their support that we are able to make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK.

“The issue of administering licenses for collecting money in public is a matter for local authorities or private property owners, and unfortunately does not fall to us as a charity.

“There are lots of other ways people can get involved with fundraising for BBC Children in Need though, and we’d encourage them to visit the website for further details: bbc.co.uk/pudsey.”

Support Stephen by donating here or find him on Facebook.

TV DATE: Children in Need’s annual TV appeal returns on Friday, November 13 on BBC One.