All charities with an income over £25,000 must report serious incidents to the Charity Commission. This threshold will certainly catch all charitable independent schools. Even if PTAs and other charities within the school family have lower incomes, reporting serious incidents remains best practice.
What Is a Serious Incident?
A serious incident might not be what you think of as an incident. The Charity Commission talks about adverse events although they mean to include any adverse set of circumstances even if they cannot be pinned to an event. The event or circumstances need not be actual or confirmed. An allegation is enough.
Those adverse events or circumstances which trigger reporting are those which result in or risk significant:
- harm to the school's beneficiaries (not just pupils), staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your school through its work
- loss of the school’s money or assets
- damage to the school’s property
- harm to the school’s work or reputation
Guidance shows how this applies to different types of circumstances and the thresholds are illustrated in examples.
Concerns about the reporting of safeguarding incidents prompted a 'deep dive' by the Commission into its records, who concluded that educational charities and charities that work with children and young people may be under-reporting serious incidents relating to safeguarding. In individual cases, it is asking about serious incident reporting process and procedure.
Against that background, it is important that your school is up-to-date with its reporting of serious incidents and that its process and procedure for making reports is up-to-date and effective.
What Has Changed?
- The Charity Commission no longer accepts serious incident reports by email but has an online form instead. This includes giving updates to reports that you have already made.
Reports and updates sent to the old email address are not being received. Governors (charity trustees) of a school that still send reports to that address will be in breach of their duty to make reports.
- It is no longer possible to draft a report free-hand based on what has happened, what the school is doing and the Commission's guidance on what to include.
The new form is interactive. Questions about the type of incident at the start of the form and general questions at the end are common to all variations, but the middle section asks different questions depending on the type of incident.
Many questions have to be answered using radio-buttons with limited options, meaning some points of detail can no longer be left out. Where free text can be entered, there are strict limits on the number of characters.
How VWV Can Help
- Free Template to Gather Information
At present, the form cannot be saved or printed, adding to the difficulties it presents to gathering information, getting internal sign-off and reporting quickly and accurately.
To help, we have developed a free, saveable form based on our experience of the Charity Commission form and its different permutations. Information can be gathered, circulated for sign-off and copied and pasted to the Commission form.
- Resource Pack
To help you meet Charity Commission expectations for serious incident reporting, we have also developed a suite of template materials including:
- a policy for reporting serious incidents
- registers to keep track of what has been reported and what has not
- key minutes and terms of reference for those dealing with reports
To find out more about the pack, including pricing, please fill in the below form or get in touch with your usual VWV contact.
To discuss the steps you need to take to report serious incidents and make sure you know what information the Charity Commission wants, please get in touch today with Andrew Wherrett, or complete the below form.