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Row over use of 'solidarity' funds

MP and head of elderly people's charity both claim that money raised from 'solidarity day' is not being put to good use

ALMOST €2bn raised from France's national "day of solidarity" has not made it to the charities that were supposed to benefit, according to an MP investigating how the annual fundraiser works.

Socialist MP Laurence Dumont claims a lack of organisation has meant that many charities helping elderly and fragile people have not received the money they need.

Ms Dumont chairs a parliamentary committee investigating how the fundraising day - which took place yesterday - operates and where the money goes.

She said in an interview this weekend that it appeared that about €150m had been used to help fill France's social security budget deficit, instead of going to the charities.

In total, she estimates that charities are missing out on €1.85bn in funds raised since the solidarity day launched in 2005.

Her claims were supported by the president of elderly people's charity ADPA, Pascal Champvert, who told Le Monde that not all of the money was making its way to the charities concerned and many groups were having to lay off staff because of a lack of funds.

A spokesman for Budget Minister Eric Woerth said it was "totally false to say that the money has been misappropriated".

The government introduced a national day of solidarity after the deadly 2003 summer heatwave which killed 20,000 people in France.

The day was scheduled for Pentecost Monday, and employees would turn up to work as usual but their pay would be donated to charities helping elderly and disabled people.

The law changed in 2008, giving employers the freedom to move the fundraising day elsewhere in the year or break the day down into smaller unpaid periods of an hour or so.

According to an Ifop poll for Ouest France, only 20% of people worked yesterday.

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