The Charity Commission updated its guidance on serious incident reporting on 14 June 2019. The new guidance now includes a link to an online form, which replaces the previous submission process whereby incidents could be reported by email.
The new digital form is designed make it easier for charities to see what information is required and to deliver the required detail in reports. Incidents must be classified into one of six discrete categories, each of which generates a number of unique follow-up questions.
The text boxes within the form each have a character limit, restricting responses in many cases to 1500 characters. Following feedback that many users were struggling to fit within these requirements, the Commission is reconsidering and plans to increase these limits to 6000 characters shortly.
The new form does not allow users to add attachments so if a charity consider that the Commission should have sight of additional information, it should flag this within the form so the Commission can follow up by email.
What is a serious incident?
A serious incident is an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant harm to anyone who comes into contact with the charity through its work, loss of the charity's money or assets, damage to the charity's property, or harm to the charity's work or reputation.
The categories which the form asks trustees to classify the incidents into are: safeguarding; financial crime; unverified or suspicious donations; other significant financial loss; links to terrorism or extremism; or 'other' significant incidents.
What information must be provided in the online form?
- Contact details, including those of the person submitting the form and those of the charity, as well as reference numbers and contact details of any other organisations involved in the incident or to whom the incident has been reported;
- Confirmation of the authority of the person submitting to do so on behalf of the trustees and confirmation of how many trustees are aware of the incident being reported;
- Details of the incident, which will vary based on the nature of the incident reported, but could include: the date and location of the incident; the identity of the person thought to be responsible for the incident; how and when the incident came to the charity's attention; and, the impact of the incident on the charity;
- Details of the charity's handling of the incident, including whether the charity's procedures were followed, preventative steps the charity has taken to prevent similar incidents occurring in the future, and the charity's approach to media handling for the incident.
When should a serious incident be reported to the Charity Commission?
The Charity Commission's guidance advises trustees to report an actual or alleged incident promptly, meaning 'as soon as is reasonably possible after it happens, or immediately after the charity becomes aware of it'.
The Charity Commission is also clear that all trustees bear ultimate responsibility for ensuring their charity makes a report in a timely manner and that where trustees decide not to make a report about something serious that has happened in their charity and the regulator later becomes involved, the trustees will need to be able to explain why they decided not to report it at the time.
If you require further information about anything covered in this briefing, please contact Chris Priestley, a Partner in our Charities team, on +44 (0)20 7597 6135.