An inquiry into the actions of the National Bullying Helpline has been launched by the Charity Commission following the receipt of 160 complaints about the hotline this week.
Christine Pratt, founder and chief executive of the hotline, previously told Personnel Today she did not feel she had breached confidentiality when she revealed the helpline had received calls from Downing Street staff about alleged bullying at work.
A spokeswoman for the commission said: “Concerns have been raised about the protection of confidential information held by the charity as a result of the operation of the charity’s confidential helpline for victims of bullying.
“The commission has a statutory responsibility to promote public trust and confidence in charities, and is aware of the potential impact on other charities that run confidential helplines.”
The inquiry will look at the helpline’s data protection procedures and examine how people were referred from the helpline to a business run by one of its trustees, the Press Association has reported.
The helpline was temporarily suspended on Thursday, and a number of the charity’s patrons have resigned, including Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe and workplace stress expert Cary Cooper.
The helpline said: “Our patrons have resigned at a time when we needed them most. It is a shame that not one of them ever visited our charity offices to see how we operate or meet with our volunteers and trustees, despite requests.
“Competitor anti-bullying charities, individuals with an axe to grind and a few others have forced our hand. We are extremely sorry for any distress this may cause to those who need help right now. We apologise also to those who are detrimentally affected by this situation – we include all charities doing very good work across the UK.”
Meanwhile anti-bullying experts have warned employees could be put off using confidential employee assistance programmes following the actions of the National Bullying Helpline, and urged employers to reassure their staff.