'Shameless exploitation': PRCA chief Francis Ingham to report charity for unpaid PR interns ad

PRCA director general Francis Ingham has ratcheted up his campaign against a charity for advertising unpaid comms and policy intern positions, saying he'll report Oasis UK to the Charity Commission and Cabinet Office.

PRWeek reported on Friday that Ingham described as "plain wrong" Oasis UK’s advert for "highly organised and self-motivated individuals" to join as unpaid interns in fundraising, research and policy or a PR and comms capacity, who would work part-time, flexible hours and be paid travel expenses only.

Ingham published a follow-up blog post this morning in which he criticised the charity’s "shocking behaviour", calling it "one of the most blatant examples of taking advantage of interns I’ve seen in the last couple of years".

Gareth Streeter, head of PR and external relations at the charity, told PRWeek last week he was "confident that we are acting within the spirit and letter of the law" and that he welcomed the debate. Streeter said interns receive a structured mentoring programme, adding that the charity uses volunteer staff in other capacities.

Ingham described the response as "GCSE-level Spin 101".

"Say that you welcome something you clearly don’t. Try to distract by comparing your offering with something supposedly worse. Say that actually, you’re doing the people you’re exploiting a favour. And then say that it’s perfectly commonplace, so what’s the problem?"

Ingham said he would veto Streeter’s application should he attempt to join the PRCA. "He doesn’t deserve to be a member of our industry. His organisation is shamelessly exploiting interns. He’s defending that exploitation. He should be ashamed of himself."

Ingham added: "Being a charity doesn’t mean that you have no moral or legal responsibilities. It should, if anything, mean that you have more. If Oasis UK had any shame, they’d reverse their position. Do the right thing. Pay their interns.

"I’m sending a copy of this blog to the Charity Commission and to the Cabinet Office. There is quite simply no place for such exploitation in the UK in 2016. It’s time to call out intern exploitation. And we won’t hesitate to do so."

Streeter told PRWeek last week: "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.

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