19 June 2020

Coronavirus: Updates for the UK charity sector

Chris Priestley
Partner | UK

Updated guidance to charities on reporting serious incidents

The Charity Commission has published updated guidance on when to report serious incidents during the coronavirus pandemic, setting out detail on what the Commission now expects to be reported. The Commission has said that the guidance was produced with significant input from sector bodies. The welcome update provides a new supplementary example table, setting out scenarios relevant to the pandemic which would require a serious incident report to be made. For example, charities should note that taking action to meet government rules by closing premises is not ‘serious’ in itself, but a report should be made if, as a result, the charity is: unable to deliver vital services to at risk beneficiaries; insolvent and/or forced to close permanently; or highly likely to be insolvent and/or forced to close permanently within the next 12 months.

It is also worth noting that the usual thresholds for reporting financial losses, either £25,000 or 20% of the charity’s income, will not apply during the pandemic. Charities should focus instead on the impact of the losses when considering whether to make a report.
The Commission has said that it will continue to prioritise reports where there is a risk of harm to individuals, or the trustees require help and guidance to deal with an incident.

Coronavirus statutory sick pay rebate scheme

As of 26 May 2020, organisation who had fewer than 250 employees as at 28 February 2020 are now able to claim back up to two weeks of statutory sick pay for an employee. The sick pay can be reclaimed if the employee was off work for any of the following reasons:

  • The employee had coronavirus symptoms;
  • The employee was self-isolating because someone in their household had coronavirus symptoms;
  • The employee was shielding and has a letter from their GP or the NHS telling them to stay at home for 12 weeks.

The amount that can be claimed back will be capped at the statutory sick pay rate of £95.85 per week. Employees are not required to present a GP’s note in order to support the claim, but employers can ask them to present an isolation note from NHS 111 or a copy of their shielding letter if possible. If already claiming from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it is not possible to claim from the statutory sick pay rebate scheme for the same employee for the same period of time.

Further guidance and the online portal to submit claims are available here.

Government unlocks further funds from dormant asset scheme

The Culture Secretary has announced that £150 million from dormant bank and building society accounts will be made available to help charities and social enterprises during the coronavirus outbreak. This includes £79 million in funds that have already been unlocked which will be repurposed to help charities’ coronavirus response and recovery efforts, and the accelerated release of a further £71 million in new funds.

Of the £150 million, £45 million will be deployed by Big Society Capital to help access to investment and emergency loans for charities, social enterprises and some small businesses facing cash flow problems. £10 million will be used by the Youth Futures Foundation to support organisations which help disadvantaged young people into jobs.

The Government is also currently consulting on the expansion of the scheme to insurance and pensions, investment and wealth management and securities. The consultation will close on 16 July 2020.

House of Lords Select Committee open inquiry into the role voluntary sector organisations have played during the pandemic

The House of Lords Select Committee for Public Services has launched an inquiry in to the lessons that should be learned for public service delivery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the key areas of the inquiry is the role of civil society, including charities, volunteers and community groups, during the pandemic.

The committee was established to examine public services transformation to ensure that they meet the needs of individuals and communities in the 21st century, and this will be its first inquiry. The committee has encouraged anyone to get in touch who can support them in accessing evidence from hard to reach groups and individuals with experience accessing services during the coronavirus pandemic.

The deadline for written evidence submissions is 29 June 2020. More information and the online form to submit evidence are available here.

Chris Priestley Partner | London

Category: Article