Francis Ingham: charity ad for unpaid PR interns 'plain wrong' and possibly illegal

PRCA director general Francis Ingham has suggested that a charity may be breaking the law by advertising for unpaid comms and policy interns - although the organisation's head of PR disagrees.

Ingham yesterday tweeted his disapproval of an advert posted by Oasis Charitable Trust, whose more than 3,000 UK staff and 2,000 volunteers run a wide range of projects in areas including housing, youth work and anti-trafficking.

He described as "plain wrong" the advert posted on the Working for an MP website, looking for "highly organised and self-motivated individuals" to join as unpaid interns in fundraising, research and policy or a PR and communications capacity, who would work part-time, flexible hours and be paid travel expenses only.

"Really not good enough. If you're using interns, pay them. It's the law," Ingham said, noting that the charity says it works to "transform lives".

Gareth Streeter, head of PR and external relations at the charity, said he was "confident that we are acting within the spirit and letter of the law".

"We welcome these comments because we think it is a good debate to have," he said, defending his charity's positions on two grounds. The first is that its interns "receive a structured mentoring and training programme that is certainly much better than anything I received as an intern in PR agencies" - and that the internships last no more than six months, by which time Streeter says the intern would likely be contributing more than they were benefitting.

The second is that as a "movement", the charity uses a lot of voluntary staff in a range of capacities. "We have volunteers in a lot of roles, in food banks, in lots of places - is it necessarily wrong that we would seek people with great skills to help us with our PR and policy work? Is that in some way less viable for a volunteer?"

A 2013 report by union Unite and campaign group Intern Aware found that more than a third of the biggest charities in the country do not pay interns, according to an article in PRWeek sister title Third Sector. Objections to unpaid internships, alongside legal concerns, include the worry that they are not lilkely to be viable options for those from poorer backgrounds.

Ingham has retweeted several comments concurring with his view:

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