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Charity Commission concerned by very low levels of serious incident reporting

17 Oct 2018 News

Fewer than 1 per cent of charities have reported a safeguarding incident to the Charity Commission over the last four years, the regulator has revealed today. 

The Commission began a “deep dive” into incidents reported to it between 1 April 2014 and 20 February 2018 as part of the work of its safeguarding taskforce, which published its final report today

It found that 0.9 per cent of registered charities submitted serious incident reports related to safeguarding and that just 1.5 per cent of charities had submitted any sort of serious incident report. 

The Commission said that while for some charities incidents will be rare, and others may experience none at all, “it seems unlikely that 99.1 per cent of charities do not experience any reportable safeguarding issues over a four-year period” and concluded that “we are seeing significant under-reporting”. 

Some 44 charities together accounted for around 55 per cent of the safeguarding incidents. The Commission said regular reporting is “good practice” and that some organisations, by virtue of their size or area of operations, were likely to need to report more incidents. 

‘We need a culture change’ 

The Commission said it was “concerned” by these findings and that it amounted to “significant and systematic underreporting”. 

It called for a culture change in attitudes to reporting serious incidents.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy, planning and communications, said: “Making a serious incident report to the Commission is not in itself an admission of wrongdoing or failure. Quite the reverse: it demonstrates that a charity is responding properly to incident or concern. So we welcome the increase in reporting by some charities, especially international aid charities, that appear to have improved their reporting since February’s revelations. But we’re not convinced that we’re seeing everything we should be.

“Working with charities, we need to bring about a culture change on reporting to ensure charities are safe places, better able to make a difference to people’s lives.”

Increase in reports

Since February 2018, the Commission has seen a significant increase in the number of incidents being reported. 

In February and March, just after the Oxfam scandal when the Commission and the Department for International Development told charities to report any outstanding incidents, the Commission received three times as many reports as it had the previous year. 

Between 20 February and 30 September there were 2,114 serious incident reports, with safeguarding concerns accounting for 68 per cent of them. 

An analysis of incidents received between 1 February and 31 May revealed that overseas aid/famine relief charities accounted for 29 per cent of incidents. This was followed by disability (12 per cent), religious (12 per cent) and education/training (12 per cent). 

The Commission is currently conducting further analysis of the data and said it was considering publishing more information about the number and types of serious incidents in the future.

New digital tool to report incidents

The Commission has updated its serious incident reporting guidance for charities and said that it was considering a new tool to make it easier for charities to report incidents. 

Its report said: “The purpose of this would be to make it easier for charities to provide the information we need at the outset. In the meantime, we are developing a checklist to sit alongside the RSI guidance to help better inform trustees about what key information we need about different types of incident when reported.” 

Civil Society Media's first State of the Sector event takes place next month and will focus on safeguarding. For more information and to book click here. 


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