Bank closes Sheffield charity’s account

A student receives her scholarship from the Sheffield Palestine Scholarship Fund
A student receives her scholarship from the Sheffield Palestine Scholarship Fund
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A Sheffield charitable fund has said the unexpected closure of its bank account will jeopardise the work it does supporting female university students in one of the world’s poorest regions.

The Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund supports 43 Palestinian women in the Gaza Strip, studying such degrees as engineering, medicine and law.

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But the Fund says it has received a letter from the Co-operative Bank to say its account is to be closed because it no longer fits the bank’s ‘risk appetite.’

The Fund says similar letters have been sent to 20 other organisations including the Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which campaigns for human rights and justice for Palestinians, and the Yorkshire Palestine Cultural Exchange, which raise funds for children’s projects and cultural exchanges between Sheffield and Palestinian people.

Sara Gowen, Fund secretary, said: “The action by the Co-operative Bank is putting 43 women’s university degrees in jeopardy.

“The Fund receives over £600 per month in standing orders and we have been given only two months’ notice to close the account with no help offered by the bank.

“Although it will be possible to switch to another bank, the process of transferring the large number of regular monthly contributions will be an administrative burden and could lead to a loss of income.

“The people of Sheffield have found it in their hearts to support Palestinian women’s right to education, despite the ongoing Israeli siege. The Scholarship Fund had hoped their bank would have the same heart.”

A Co-operative Bank spokesman said the bank remains a committed supporter of charities which can meet the industry level requirements and added: “This is not a reflection on the excellent work carried out by many organisations throughout the world, or a statement about the causes they support.

“For customers who operate in, or send money to, high risk locations throughout the world, advanced due diligence checks are required by all banks to ensure that funds do not inadvertently fund illegal or other proscribed activities.

“Depending on the particular circumstances of an individual or an organisation, it may not be possible for us to complete these checks to our satisfaction. The decision to close a small number of accounts is the inevitable result of this process.”