Robert Armour says Gerry Freedman may be a chancer but he's taught us all a very valuable lesson
Of the very few people in the third sector to have laid eyes on Gerry Freedman, one charity's chief executive told me her most abiding memory was his “limp, lukewarm handshake” accompanied by a meagre, almost timid demeanour.
It’s an ironic but fitting epitaph to the man who for at least 10 years has aggressively harassed hundreds if not thousands of charities with persistent job applications.
And all written IN UPPER CASE, just to prove how angry he was.
His modus operandi is to dictate fake disability law to countless organisations demanding an interview for posts while in turn insisting on a rider that would make a Kardashian wince.
One leading disability organisation told me that despite Freedman living in Edinburgh, he pushed for the interview for an advertised post – which he really wasn’t qualified to do in the first place – to take place in Glasgow. Three directors travelled to meet the man in question for the scheduled hour-long grilling expecting to meet an adequately refreshed Freedman following his first-class paid-for rail journey and an all expenses stay at one of the city’s not-too-shabby hotels.
But, mysteriously, Freedman never showed, despite repeated attempts to contact him. It appears the self-proclaimed gluten-free, lactose intolerant, agoraphobic, disability expert – who also suffers from anxiety, depression, arthritis, ME, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, arthritis and most other ailments to boot – had made off faster than a well-oiled racing snake across a newly polished floor.
From my conversation with this leading charity, it seems that while they suspected from the outset the serial job applicant was “up to no good” they felt it was the safer option to give in to his demands. “Our board was concerned he’d go public and in some way shame us for discriminating against a disabled person,” the chief executive told me. “We just couldn’t risk our reputation.”
It’s like one of those dating scams you read about in Take A Break where the unsuspecting overweight, middle-aged, unemployed bloke gets swept of his feet by a very young, very shapely, very beautiful glamour model whom he has never met. And never will, despite endless typo-laden correspondence and sending a Western Union transfer for her – and her mum’s – all expenses trip from the Ukraine to, eh, Carfin.
In effect Freedman has driven a train through Scotland’s third sector. Though largely a chancer, he has managed to hit a rich seam of vulnerability in Scottish charities where their hyper-acute, over sensitive and risk averse culture has been consistently and embarrassingly exploited.
A frequent refrain from more savvy charities is that this could all have been avoided if our sector was more confident and, specifically, more disability confident. It doesn’t take much at all – it’s merely a policy appraising current legislation and is mostly all common sense – but means staff and volunteers know how to deal with chancers and would-be scammers. If anything, this whole sorry story is a lesson to charities to make sure they are up-to-date with the law.
It's unlikely we’ve heard the last of Gerry Freedman. I’ve consistently asked him for a response if only because it would make good reading. I even said something unsavoury about his overfed pug Archie which, going by his Facebook profile, he loves more than life itself. All to no avail.
That doesn’t mean he’s gone to ground: charities should be aware that he may continue to make spurious applications for jobs. One would imagine though, now exposed by TFN, his tattered reputation will precede him.