February 2019 - Dealing with wrong doing and harm

The Charity Commission has published a report on the lessons and warnings that trustees might usefully draw from casework it has handled. Whilst the Commission’s focus is on ensuring that charities can thrive and inspire trust this guidance is also useful to those running organisations beyond the charity sector. The guidance covers the following:

Safeguarding: The Commission received 1,580 serious incident reports about safeguarding in 2017-18 but still believes that under-reporting is an issue. It also highlighted the fact that many charities that work with children or adults at risk still do not have a safeguarding policy. The lessons it highlights are -
• Trustees have a duty to protect all those who come into contact with their charity from harm; safeguarding is not only for charities working with children or vulnerable adults at.
• Make sure that your charity’s staff and volunteers, as well as your users and customers, are safe in the workplace.
• You should also protect people who may only come into contact with your charity temporarily. For example, if you host an event where people who you do not usually work with might be at risk.
• Create an open culture and listen to victims.
• Review your safeguarding policies and procedures once a year.

Charity Commission Guidance note: Safeguarding and protecting people

Reporting serious incidents: The Commission received almost 3,000 reports of “serious incidents” in 2017-18, most were about safeguarding. The lessons it highlights are -
• Protect your charity and its reputation by acting early.
• Report concerns where necessary.
• Make sure you know when you should report incidents and who to report them to.
• It may not be comfortable for your charity, but reporting serious incidents is part of governing your charity responsibly.

Charity Commission guidance: How to report a serious incident to the Charity Commission

Data protection: This is seen as likely to become a more high-profile risk in 2019. The lessons it highlights are -
• Review data protection procedures
• Put appropriate processes in place
• Follow the Information Commissioner’s guidance for charities and small businesses. Trustees should also make sure their charity has an appropriate social media policy in place and be clear on how it applies to them.

Charity Commission guidance: Making digital work for charities

Insider fraud: The Commission found that almost three quarters of cases were because of too much trust being placed in an individual or individuals who went unchallenged. The lessons it highlights are -
• Trustees are accountable and must protect the charity and its funds and assets.
• Trustees must:
o make sure charitable funds are properly used to further your charity’s purposes
o have strong internal and financial controls
o have robust financial management
• Encourage everyone in your charity to look out for things that do not seem right and to speak out.
• Divide financial duties among different people. This should help you to check and verify records and transactions.

Charity Commission Guidance note: Internal financial controls