Charity Commission releases extra guidance on reporting serious incidents

20 Dec 2019 News

The Charity Commission yesterday published supplementary support for charities about reporting serious incidents when it involves a partner, but it has been criticised by NCVO.

The Commission requires charities to report serious incidents. Serious incidents need to be reported to the Commission even if the police, donors or another regulator is also aware. A serious incident is an adverse event, whether actual or alleged.

The responsibility for reporting serious incidents rests with the charity’s trustees. The regulator states that in practice, this may be delegated to someone else within the charity, such as an employee or the charity’s professional advisers.

This recent advice does not represent a change in existing reporting requirements. The regulator has said it is designed to help charities that work with partner organisations apply existing guidance.

Kate Waring, head of risk at the Commission, said: “Reporting fully and frankly when things go wrong helps charities to inspire trust, by demonstrating to their supporters that they are committed to getting to the root of the problem and addressing matters of concern. We want to help trustees get this right, so we have listened to feedback from charities and developed this supplementary advice to help them understand what to report and how.”

The regulator said its a number of large charities have already received this advice during one-to-one engagement.

NCVO: ‘This additional guidance from the Commission does nothing to provide further clarification’

NCVO said that the supplementary guidance does not provide further clarification and will only increase the Commission’s workload.

Elizabeth Chamberlain, acting director of public policy at NCVO, said: “The question of when to report a serious incident is a challenging one for charities, particularly those with complex activities and structures. So it is important to have as much clarity as possible, to help them deal with these issues effectively.

“Unfortunately, this additional guidance from the Commission does nothing to provide further clarification. In particular, it won’t help charity trustees decide what incident is to be considered of the level of seriousness to require reporting. The message seems to be that charities will have to report everything unless it has nothing to do with the charity.

“The result is that the Commission will continue to be inundated by serious incident reports – and we continue to have concerns about its capacity to effectively deal with this increase.” 

Commission: ‘We only want to hear about incidents that materially affect a charity’

In response to NCVO, a spokesperson for the regulator said: “The document we have published is clear that we only want to hear about incidents that materially affect a charity, and that not all incidents need to be reported. The supplementary advice is designed to meet the needs of the varied sector we regulate, by helping trustees of individual charities make informed decisions about what they should report based on their knowledge and experience of their own charities.
“Since the introduction of our digital serious incident reporting tool in June all reports we receive are now being assessed and responded to well within our target of 10 working days. We continue to be concerned that there is under-reporting by charities and we hope this publication will help to address that.”

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