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Four Key Points to Take Away from the New Serious Incident Reporting Guidance

on Monday, 17 December 2018.

In October 2018, the Charity Commission published new guidance on safeguarding and serious incident reporting, following previous guidance published in Autumn 2017.

What Are the Key Changes?

  • Introduction of Timescales

Although in practice, there has always been an expectation on trustees to make a timely report, they are now expected to report an incident "as soon as is reasonably possible after it happens, or immediately after your charity becomes aware of it".

Clearly, for trustees to be able to meet this express obligation, all trustees must understand their duty and must ensure there are processes in place for such incidents to be brought to their attention by, usually, senior leaders.

  • Expansion of the Definition of a 'Serious Incident'

Since the Commission is concerned with the duty of trustees to take reasonable steps to protect from harm anyone who comes into contact with the charity, as well as those specific legal duties in respect of children and vulnerable adults, a theme of the revised guidance is about "safeguarding and protecting people" more widely than before.

A serious incident now includes an event (actual or alleged) which results in or risks significant harm to "staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your charity through its work" as well as to beneficiaries (usually pupils for academy trusts).

  • 'Other Significant Incidents'

The examples of other significant incidents to report now also include "significant data breaches/losses or incidents involving partners that materially affect the charity". The helpful examples table has also been updated to reflect these two additions.

For academy trusts with sponsors and/or trading companies, trustees should be particularly aware of the examples given under the heading "incidents involving partners".

You should note, however, that the examples table is not a definitive list of reportable incidents and the guidance now expressly refers to this point.

  • What to Do if You Are Unsure About Making a Report

In the previous version of the guidance, the Commission made clear that if trustees were in any doubt as to whether or not to report a matter, it was best practice to report it. The guidance now states that they should seek advice from the Commission for more information.

Under its funding agreement, an academy trust is obliged to make a report not to the Commission but to the ESFA as all references in the guidance to 'Commission' should therefore be read as references to 'ESFA'. Accordingly, reference to seeking advice from the Commission should be read seeking advice from the ESFA.

Unlike the Commission, the ESFA does not have a designated email address for receiving reports (or queries on reporting). Should you be in any doubt as to your reporting obligation, you should consider obtaining legal advice and liaising with your usual ESFA contact.


If you have any queries in relation to serious incident reporting, please contact Jaime Hobday in our Education team on 0121 227 3703.

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