The Charity Commission has repeated its warning that safeguarding must be treated as a priority by charities, after new figures showed that safeguarding concerns featured in 302 regulatory compliance cases opened in 2016/17.
This was up from 163 in the previous year, a jump of 85 per cent, according to Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement, the regulator’s annual report on its compliance case work.
There was also an increase in the number of disclosures with other agencies that have safeguarding responsibilities, up 30 per cent to 244.
Safeguarding featured in six statutory inquiries, which are the regulator’s most serious type of engagement with charities, while over half of serious incidents reported to the Commission by charities related to safeguarding concerns – 1,203 out of 2,182.
Flurry of activity
Late last year, the regulator updated its strategy for dealing with safeguarding in charities, and last month it issued a “regulatory alert” to charities following a number of reports about serious incidents both in charities and more widely.
Now, in a new intervention to accompany the annual compliance report, the Commission has emphasised that safeguarding should be a priority for all charities, not just those working with groups traditionally considered at risk.
It has also published a revised regulatory and risk framework, which acts as a guide for charities on how it approaches its engagement work.
Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement, said: “Our wider compliance casework shows that problems in charities often result from basic failures by trustees to understand and fulfil their legal duties.
“In the area of safeguarding, this can include failing to recognise that your beneficiaries may be at risk or vulnerable in certain situations, or not taking proper steps to protect others who come into contact with your charity, such as staff members and volunteers.
“I hope this report serves as a tool that enables trustees in managing their charities effectively.”
Broader compliance work
Overall, the report reveals that 2016/17 saw:
- 1,664 new regulatory compliance cases (2015-16: 1,804)
- 503 new monitoring cases (2015-16: 424)
- 187 new statutory inquiries (2015-16: 53) – this rise was partly due to a class inquiry involving 74 connected charities and partly due to more “double-defaulter” charities being assessed for failing to submit annual accounts
- 2,182 serious incidents (2015-16: 2,117)
The regulator also used its new powers, which were granted to it under the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, 13 times in 2016/17.
By the end of 2017 this figure had increased to 80. The powers include the ability to issue official warnings and the ability to suspend or disqualify trustees.