The Charity Commission has published an update to its approach to whistleblower disclosures, to accompany new findings showing an increase in disclosures received. In light of the number of reports on poor charity behaviour in 2018 whistleblowing seems set to become an even more important driver for regulation. Charities and their employees should consider this guidance and take their rights and responsibilities into account.
The research indicates a rise in whistleblowing reports received by the Charity Commission to 101 in 2017/2018, on 88 from the previous period. Of these 101 reports not all have yet led the Charity Commission to intervene, although only 19 have been considered ‘low risk’. The figures show that whistleblowing is a key source of information for the Charity Commission in identifying non-compliant charities and poor behaviour.
Trustee boards should note that poor governance represented, year on year, the most common cause for concern in the complaints made by charity workers to the Charity Commission.
The Commission has announced its intention to set up a whistleblowing ‘hotline’ to assist those considering making reports. To facilitate whistleblowing the Charity Commission has also provided updated guidance to assist those thinking of reporting 'serious wrongdoing at a charity as a worker or volunteer'.
The guidance suggests that only incidents that could seriously harm the charity or its beneficiaries should be reported, giving as examples:
- if someone’s health or safety is in danger, for example if a charity does not use its safeguarding policy
- a criminal offence, for example theft, fraud or financial mismanagement
- if a charity uses its activities as a platform for extremist views or materials
- loss of charity funds, for example when a charity loses more than 20% of its income or more than £25,000
- if the charity does not meet its legal obligations, for example if someone uses a charity for significant personal advantage
Trustees should also recognise some of the examples of serious harm meriting whistleblowing as also being serious incidents which should be reported the Charity Commission.