Cumbria Deaf Association has been thrown into a fight for survival after Barclays bank closed its accounts.

CEO Caroline Howsley said the small charity, which has banked with Barclays for 21 years, is in danger of folding as she is paying staff salaries and outgoings from her own personal savings.

She has spent more than £40,000 so far keeping the charity afloat but says she can’t afford to continue.

Cumbria Deaf Association has three full-time staff and 10 part-time and is an independent charity based in Kendal, with centres in Barrow and Carlisle.

It provides vital services including British Sign Language training to businesses and schools and BSL interpreters to help deaf people with daily tasks such as visiting dentists and NHS and council appointments.

Barclays closed the charity’s three accounts on October 23.

“Barclays are alleging that we didn’t provide them with the information they require in a timely fashion. Yet we believe we have," Caroline said. 

“Cumbria Deaf Association is one of the charities who have repeatedly submitted various mandates and updated personal information on trustees et cetera.

“Barclays wrote asking for yet more information, giving us notice of intent to close the account.

“We had supplied the information requested but it seems that two different departments were asking for conflicting information and operating on different timelines.

"The result was that Barclays closed our three bank accounts with them and have sent one cheque, with no statement and no means of us accessing funds.”

During protracted attempts to meet the bank’s requests, Caroline and the charity’s Treasurer and Chair went into local Barclays branches with ID.

“I was on one phone call to Barclays for five hours - with my husband bringing me tea - on to the call centre just being passed from pillar to post,” said Caroline.

“It’s gone back and forth for more than a year. It’s like David and Goliath, except David isn’t winning.”

The charity is now in the process of setting up a new account with a different bank. 

“I have paid the staff salaries and other costs in October and November. This is out of mine and my husband’s personal savings. And the chair has put money in too.

“December is the last one I can pay. After that, if we can’t make our payments, we may be forced to close.”

Beyond paying for staff salaries, Caroline has been covering outgoings such as taxes, insurance, and bills.

"I have cheques totalling about £46,000 that I can't bank. And we can't send out invoices requesting payment because we have nowhere to pay them.

"Barclays have destabilised the charity, and it means all the wonderful progress we have made over the past three years is in jeopardy," she said. 

A Barclays spokesperson said: “As part of our ongoing responsibility to help prevent financial crime, and to meet our regulatory obligations, we are required to keep up to date information regarding our customers’ accounts.

"In order to request this important information, we share a series of communications with our customers, including writing to them by post, and using alert banners on our digitally active customers’ online and mobile banking.

"It is vital that account holders respond to these requests from their bank. 

"We work hard to avoid the last resort of account closure, but we fully understand the issues it can cause customers, and in light of this we have offered to reopen the account to allow more time for the information to be shared.”