19 March 2019 - Article
The Charity Commission published an Operational Monitoring Compliance Case into the Southwark Muslim Women’s Association after being made aware of an employee’s conviction for historic sexual offences against minors.
The charity, which provides educational courses for Muslim women, children and elders in Southwark, failed to report the incident to the Charity Commission or to its main funder, Southwark Council.
At a meeting with the Charity Commission, it was revealed that:
- while the charity had a safeguarding policy in place, the employee did not have an up to date DBS check as per the policy, which suggested the trustees themselves were not fully informed about whether up to date safeguarding policies were in place;
- the employee had been responsible for the annual return to the Charity Commission in 2013, which created a conflict of interest as trustees are responsible for confirming whether any serious incidents had occurred the previous financial year; and
- the employee had been in constant attendance at trustee meetings, which affected the governance of the charity.
In its report the Charity Commission stressed the following:
- trustees must ensure robust safeguarding policies are in place so that beneficiaries are protected from harm, this includes updating checks on staff and trustees regularly;
- trustees must act transparently and actively inform funders and other interested parties of incidents so that the reputation of the charity is preserved;
- trustees are responsible for the accuracy of their annual return and have overall responsibility for dealing with and managing conflicts of interest in their charity; and
- importantly, trustees are responsible for decision-making at their charity and for ensuring that decisions are made independently and with the charity’s best interests in mind. This means that while staff can attend board meetings at the invitation of trustees (eg, to take minutes or advise on a specific agenda item), they can have no role in the decision-making process. The trustees must consider potential conflicts of interest and issues of confidentiality when deciding whether staff members should be present.