Reporting Serious Incidents: Law Society’s response to Charity Commission’s consultation

Following the Charity Commission’s consultation on proposed changes to its reporting serious incidents guidance which ran from 20 October 2016 to 12 January 2017, we thought you would be interested to know that on 16 January 2017, the Law Society published its response in a document setting out its suggestions for inclusion in the Commission’s procedures.  
 


Broadly speaking, the Law Society found the new guidance helpful and believes that the criteria for reporting safeguarding incidents are clear.  The response states that the guidance provides a clear explanation as to what the term ‘serious incident’ means, the steps a trustee should undertake to report a serious incident and adequately explains the difference between fraud and theft and the steps that should be taken when reporting each. 

In addition, the Law Society agrees with the inclusion of the new examples in the guidance around incidents of significant financial loss including losses affecting solvency, significant fines and penalties from HMRC, the Information Commissioner’s office and other agencies, financial losses arising from litigation and losses resulting from loss of funding.

It also agrees that the following circumstances are risks rather than serious incidents and should be removed from the document:
 

  1. the charity has no vetting procedure to ensure that trustees or charity staff are eligible to act in the position they are being appointed to; and
     
  2. the charity does not have a safeguarding policy in place.

 

In respect of its recommendations, the Law Society proposes that the guidance make it clearer that trustees can find further information on appropriate safeguards in “The essential trustee: what you need to know, what you need to do.”  In addition, whilst it recognises the distinction between the Commission and other statutory agencies, it states that the Commission could make it clearer when exactly a report may need to be reported to another agency, such as ActionFraud or the police, rather than just the Commission.

In the Law Society’s view, it would be helpful for the new guidance to have a consolidated list at the end of the document, together with links to other relevant guidance and the contact details of the commission and other statutory agencies mentioned in the guidance.  It also believes that it would be helpful if the guidance contained further detail on how the Commission deals with serious incident reports and what support trustees can expect to receive following a report in order to allay any potential concerns regarding the procedures following the filing of such a report.

Whilst it has made several comments on the guidance, the Law Society is supportive of the Commission’s revised guidance and states that it will assist significantly in raising awareness of what constitutes a serious incident and in respect of clarifying when a serious incident should be reported.