Charity behind Belfast youth summit still subject of regulator salary probe

The One Young World summit takes place in Belfast across October 2-5, where it will cost between £3,150 and £4,210 to attend the four-day event.

The salaries paid to One Young World chief executive Kate Robertson (left) and her daughter Ella Robertson McKay (right), prompted the Charity Commission to launch a regulatory compliance case.

THE organisation behind a major youth summit taking place in Belfast next month remains subject of an ongoing regulatory compliance case launched by the Charity Commission into salaries paid to its senior executives.

The government regulator initiated its investigation into the One Young World charity in October 2022 after the Mail on Sunday reported its mother-and-daughter leadership team were paid almost £2 million over a five year period.

One Young World was founded in 2009 by Kate Robinson and fellow advertising executive, David Jones.

The charity's global summit takes place in Belfast across October 2-5, where it will cost between £3,150 and £4,210 to attend the four-day event.

One Young World said its summit will bring around 2,000 of "the brightest young leaders" to Belfast, who will work "to accelerate social impact”.

The charity said delegates “participate in four transformative days of speeches, workshops and networking” before returning to their workplaces and communities “with the means and motivation to make a difference”.

The 200 speakers confirmed for the event include Sir Bob Geldof, Didier Drogba, former Irish President, Mary Robinson, former NBA star Enes Freedom and the British-Iranian Author Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who spent six years in an Iranian prison.

Sir Bob Geldof will be among the speakers at One Young World's Belfast summit next month.

One Young World came under scrutiny last year after it was reported its chief executive Kate Robinson received a £440,000 package in the 18 months to June 2021.

Her daughter Ella Robertson McKay, who is managing director of the charity received just under £195,000 during the same 18 month period.

Ms Robertson McKay, who stood as a Conservative candidate for the Scottish Parliament in 2021, stepped down as chair of Conservative Young Women earlier this year.

Their latest accounts show the charity had a staff of just 37 at the end of 2021.

In June, Belfast City Council led a call for volunteers to work at the four-day summit.

The Charity Commission responded to last year's reports by launching a compliance case to "examine concerns" around the salaries at One Young World.

At the time it said: “All charities should be able to look donors and volunteers in the eye and say how their decisions about pay impact on the cause they pursue or the people they help.”

In a statement to The Irish News last week, the Charity Commission said: “Our regulatory compliance case into One Young World remains ongoing and we continue to engage with the trustees at this time.”

While opening a regulatory compliance case is not in itself a finding of wrongdoing, it is the first step the regulator can take in examining potential wrongdoing.

One Young World said it is committed to transparency and has worked closely with the Charity Commission to answer questions about the governance of the charity.

“The most recent communication of timings from the commission indicates that this process will be concluded before the end of the year," said a spokesperson.

“We are confident in the health of the charity and the tremendous impact it continues to have.”

One Young World's managing director, and ex-chair of Conservative Young Women, Ella Robertson McKay, pictured with former British Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Belfast was named as a host city for the summit two years ago after a successful bid involving government bodies and private businesses.

The Department for the Economy, Department of Finance and Belfast City Council are among the bodies committed to providing funding.

Belfast City Council has also approved funding 20 places at the summit at a cost of £63,000.

While local delegates pay £3,150 to attend, those who require accommodation are charged £4,210.

In both cases, the fee includes seven meals and access to transport between venues. Most events are listed for the ICC Belfast.

Belfast City Council estimate the summit will generate an economic impact of around £3.4m.

A spokesperson for One Young World said those who pay the fee receive membership of the ‘One Young World community’ for life, which includes “access to potential funding, mentoring, media opportunities and other kinds of support”.

Belfast City Council led a call for volunteers to work at the One Young World Summit.

He said the fee for young people to attend is often funded public and private sector bodies.

Around 500 'scholarships' to attend the Belfast event will be funded by around 60 organisations including the Heritage Lottery Foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Swiss-based Holcim, Novartis and Z Zurich Foundation.

One Young World said several thousand young people have also been invited for the summit's opening ceremony, which takes place at the SSE Arena on October 2.

According to accounts filed with the Charity Commission, One Young World reported an income of £5.14m in 2021, with an expenditure of £6.15m.