Changes to rules which automatically disqualify people from being trustees come into effect today, as the Charity Commission says it has received 30 waiver applications from people and organisations affected by the changes so far.
As part of the Charities Act 2016 the rules about people who were automatically barred from being trustees, chief executives or finance directors were broadened to include people with criminal records for sex offences, terrorism and money laundering, and people who are barred from trusteeship will also be disqualified from senior staff posts, unless they have obtained permission from the Commission.
In February the Commission opened the waiver application process for people who were already involved with a charity and urged people to apply for waivers as soon as possible.
Today it told Civil Society News that it had receive 30 applications since opening the process.
The Commission granted eight waivers, refused one and is still considering 11. Ten were not applicable as those applying were not covered by the rules. Those who submitted an application before 1 August can continue in post until a decision is made, including any appeal to the Charity Tribunal.
Anyone who is affected by the new rules but has not applied for a waiver can no longer act as a trustee. The Commission aims to make a decision within 30 days of receiving any applications from today onwards.
A Commission spokeswoman said that the new rules are an “important step that parliament determined would better protect charities against potential abuse and mismanagement”.
The Commission says that charities should have changed their recruitment processes to take account of the new rules. It said some charities have been asking all trustees and senior leaders to sign declarations.
The spokeswoman added: “We recognise that these changes may have a significant impact on some charities, which is why we have worked hard to ensure charities and individuals are aware of these changes and our guidance in the lead up to the deadline. We have continued to remind charities of the upcoming changes, by writing directly to them in our trustee newsletter and through other channels including social media.”
Unlock has opposed the changes as it fears that it will discourage people from lived experience from being involved with charities, but it worked with the Commission to produce guidance.
In a blog on its website today, Christopher Stacey, director of Unlock, said: “There are over 11 million people in this country with a criminal record. Many of them play a vital role in contributing to the work of charities.”
He says the rules are “disproportionate and ineffective” and also warns that there is low awareness of them, with research conducted by Unlock and Clinks suggesting that around 70 per cent of organisations are not aware of the changes.
Unlock has today updated its guidance and said: “In practice, people that are disqualified can apply for a waiver which, if granted, will mean they can still take up the role that they were previously disqualified from.”
He added that Unlock would follow the developments and support those affected.
“We expect the Commission to grant waivers to people who are clearly adding value to the charities that they’re involved in, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on any decisions they make to refuse waivers,” he said.
He told Civil Society News that he was concerned about how long the process might be taking.
“We know of some cases where individuals have waited months for a decision, and it’s concerning to learn that over 1 in 3 waiver applications are still being considered,” he said. “Given that these decisions might have significant implications for people’s livelihoods, it’s important that the Commission is making sure that it’s meeting its aim of making decisions within 30 days.”