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Safeguarding and Serious Incident Reporting - New Charity Commission Guidance

on Tuesday, 06 November 2018.

The Charity Commission's work on safeguarding and serious incident reporting has carried on apace, with the conclusion of the work of its safeguarding taskforce and the publication of new guidance in October.

With fewer than 1% of charities making a serious incident report about safeguarding since 2014, and potential shortfalls identified in reports from educational charities and those working with children, the Commission is concerned by the prospect of systemic under-reporting in the sector. One of its strategies is to analyse its data in order to identify under-reporting charities.

The Commission has published new safeguarding guidance. Since the Commission is concerned with a 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, it now talks about "safeguarding and protecting people".

The guidance aims to be a one stop shop, setting out issues and signposting resources for more detail. It is certainly not a checklist. The Commission's blog which launched the guidance makes it clear that safeguarding and protecting people is about much more than policies and processes; it is a fundamental responsibility of trustees which should go to the heart of their charity's culture. Still, trustees would do well to read to check their approach against the guidance. It has developed some concrete expectations for all charities, like having a risk register and using it to manage safeguarding risk.

One stop shop or not, in reality the Commission's guidance remains distributed throughout a number of publications. Notably, it updated its guidance on serious incident reporting. Released at the same time, it includes five new sections on reporting safeguarding. The guidance did not confine itself to what to report, but also re-stated the charity safeguarding duty, including an apparently new regulatory expectation that charity trustees consider taking steps to prevent harm even when there is no corresponding legal duty to do so.  

The new serious incident reporting guidance also clarifies the need to report incidents which involve criminality, significant data breaches and incidents occurring in partner organisations which are serious and affect the charity.

For more information, please contact Andrew Wherrett in our Charity Law team, on 0117 314 5269.