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STOP PRESS: Reporting Safeguarding Incidents to Charity Commission

on Friday, 13 April 2018.

Updated Charity Commission guidance highlights safeguarding as a high priority regulatory issue.

If you have been following the Charity Commission's publications, you will have seen that, since December 2017, the Charity Commission has been heavily focussed on safeguarding.  We understand that over the weekend, 6-9 April 2018, the Charity Commission has also directly emailed some charities about safeguarding.  

The regulatory temperature around safeguarding has been rising considerably since last Autumn to the current position where the Charity Commission is expressing levels of regulatory concern, resource commitment and directive statements on this issue which are unprecedented.

Trustees who want more easily to follow developments in regulation by the Charity Commission can subscribe to our new Compliance Toolkit for charities (launching soon).

What Has Happened?

In September 2017 the Charity Commission updated its guidance on serious incident reporting. The requirement to report safeguarding incidents was largely unchanged from the previous guidance, but the wider context of the guidance stressed the importance of reporting promptly and the need to report not just actual incidents and harm, but allegations and risks of harm.

On 6 December the Charity Commission heavily revised its "Strategy for dealing with safeguarding issues in charities". The guidance described a much more confident regulator than the previous version with a clear vision of its role regulating charities governance relating to promoting welfare of beneficiaries and taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to people who come into contact with the charity.

Less than two weeks later, on 19 December 2017, the Charity Commission published a regulatory alert on its website. This confirmed the scope of the charity safeguarding duty that it regulated, highlighting its application to staff and volunteers. It set out some regulatory expectations on charities and a list of advice for charities to follow. It also included advice that all charities:

  • undertake a thorough review of their charity’s safeguarding governance and management arrangements and performance if one has not been recently conducted within the last 12 months
  • contact the Commission about safeguarding issues, or serious safeguarding incidents, complaints or allegations which have not previously been disclosed to the charity regulator

In the latest email, a very active regulator, which has been allocating resources to a task force and holding high profile summits, has reiterated that advice. Its consistent repetition by multiple channels underlines the seriousness of the message.

What Does This Mean for My Charity?

Safeguarding is clearly a high priority regulatory issue for the Charity regulator. It seems to consider that safeguarding incidents have been under reported and is calling on all charities to ensure that they have reported all outstanding safeguarding issues. It isn't clear how the Charity Commission will approach reports made in response to its latest advice. But it is likely that it will consider any further delay in reporting safeguarding incidents or any failure to report incidents which later come to light with grave regulatory concern.

We therefore recommend that trustees:

  • check their charity's records for reference to allegations of abuse, neglect or harm to anyone the charity comes into contact with and to consider reporting these as a matter of urgency to the Charity Commission if this has not already been done
  • review their safeguarding arrangements (to include policy and procedures) to ensure that these are drafted sufficiently widely to cover the charity's safeguarding obligations to all those affected by its operations (rather than focussing only on children and vulnerable adults)

 For more information, please contact Andrew Wherrett on 0117 314 5269, or Tabitha Cave on 0117 314 5381.

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