01 December 2019

Charity Commission publishes new guidance on reporting serious incidents involving a charity's partners


In December, the Charity Commission published new guidance on when to report a serious incident involving partners of a charity, available here.

The guidance explains that “Partner” includes the following: a delivery partner or sub-contractor of the charity; a subsidiary trading company of the charity; an organisation that receives funding from the charity; another charity or organisation that is linked to your charity, for example as part of a federated structure.

Trustees “should make a serious incident report when an incident has occurred involving one of the charity’s partners in the UK or internationally, which materially affects the charity, its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation, such that it is serious enough to be reported”. The guidance identifies three different categories under which an incident may need to be reported as a serious incident.

The guidance notes that the most high risk incidents are those that involve the charity’s funds, brand, people or an activity that it funds or is responsible for, due to the close links between the charity and the incident, however, not all incidents of this kind will need to be reported. It depends how serious the incident is and how significant the impact is likely to be on the charity.

The starting point for trustees when considering whether to report an incident should be whether they would have reported the incident if it had happened in their own charity. If so, they should carefully consider whether to report partner incidents that fall into this category.

Incidents that do not involve the charity’s funds, brand or people are less likely to need to be reported as the charity does not have a close connection, trustees should still consider whether to make a report in certain circumstances. These are:

1. If the incident is likely to cause reputational damage to the charity. Charities should be mindful that if its branding is the same as the partner, the public may not distinguish between the two organisations and there may be a significant impact on the reputation of the charity even if there is little or no impact on the charity’s activities, finances or people.

2. If the incident raises material issues regarding due diligence. Are they a suitable partner to work with and do they remain capable of delivering the charity’s work?

3. Would the incident be so serious as to trigger suspension or termination of the charity’s agreement with the partner?

If the incident does not involve the charity’s funds, brand or people, the guidance states that it would not normally trigger the requirement to report a serious incident. However the trustees should still consider whether there are areas for improvement or changes required to policy and procedure in relation to such incidents.

The categories above provide a starting point for trustees. Charities should not solely rely on this however, and should still undertake an assessment based on the specific circumstances of an incident when considering whether to make a serious incident report.

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