Important new Charity Commission guidance on reporting serious incidents

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22 September, 2017
The Charity Commission has updated its guidance on reporting serious incidents, following growing concern that they are being under-reported by charities. 
Last year, charities reported 2,181 incidents to the Commission, over half of which (55%) related to safeguarding; around one in seven (14%) related to fraud or money laundering, with a third of reported frauds being internal (‘insider’) fraud. However, the Commission believes that many more serious incidents are going unreported.
  • Includes new tools, such as examples and checklists to make it clearer to trustees what they should, and should not, report to the regulator
  • Provides greater clarity on incidents resulting in “significant financial loss”, making clear that losing significant funding or contracts that the charity can’t replace should be reported to the regulator
  • No longer requires trustees to report if their charity doesn’t have a safeguarding policy in place, as that information is now captured through the annual return.
What is a serious incident?
The Charity Commission describes a serious incident as an “adverse event, actual or alleged, which results in: 
  • Harm to a charity’s work, beneficiaries or reputation; 
  • The loss of a charity’s money or assets, or damage to a charity’s property”. 
How do you report a serious incident?
  • If something goes wrong you should take immediate action, and email
  • If a crime has been committed, you should also report it to the Police - along with any other regulators your charity is accountable to
  • plan what to say to your staff, volunteers, members, the public and the media
  • review what happened and prevent it from happening again - this may include strengthening internal controls and procedures, and/or seeking appropriate help from professional advisers
Who should report a serious incident?
  • Trustees are usually responsible for reporting serious incidents - but this may be delegated to someone else within the organisation, who must be able to prove they have authority to report the incident.
  • The Charity Commission also has a Guide to Whistleblowing for situations where the above may not be appropriate.

Reporting checklist
When making a serious incident report, you should provide details of:
  • Who you are and your connection to the charity
  • The authority you have to report on behalf of the charity’s trustees
  • Who in the trustee body is aware of the incident, for example all or only the Chair
  • What happened and when the charity first became aware of it
  • Action being taken to deal with the incident and prevent future problems
  • Whether and when it was reported to the police or another regulator/ statutory agency (including official reference numbers)
  • Media handling lines you may have prepared


You can read the full guidelines here.

In future, trustees will be able to report serious incidents via the Commission’s online services, making it easier for them to submit timely and accurate reports.

Voscur support
If your Bristol-based organisation is in crisis, Voscur may be able to offer help and advice. Find out more here.



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