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The Charity Commission have published new guidance for trustees on reporting serious incidents. The new guidance includes examples and checklists to help get things right. Here are some highlights and pointers from the guidance to help you get on the right track.

What is a serious incident?

A serious incident is an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant:

• loss of your charity’s money or assets

• damage to your charity’s property

• harm to your charity’s work, beneficiaries or reputation

Most commonly this will be a theft or fraud, perhaps a fire or flood, allegations of terrorism involvement or a safeguarding issue. It could include the receipt of a large unverified donation (over £25,000 is regarded as large) or a series of lower value issues which might form part of a pattern.

Who should report?

The responsibility for reporting lies with the charity trustees and though the actual task of reporting may be delegated perhaps to the Chief Executive or an accountant or lawyer it remains the responsibility of the trustees, as a body, to ensure that the report is actually made and in a timely manner.

Why must you report?

You need to report because the Charity Commission has a role in regulating the charity sector and needs to ensure that trustees are complying with their duties and taking appropriate action to deal with any incidents that occur. You need to remember that as a trustee the protection of the assets, reputation and beneficiaries of your charity are your prime concerns.

When must you report?

The guidance says that any report must be made promptly, this means as soon as reasonably possible after the incident or the time at which you become aware of it.

What do you report?

A report should contain the following:

• who you are and your connection to the charity

• the authority you have to report on behalf of the charity’s trustees

• who in the trustee body is aware of the incident, for example all of the trustees or only the Chair

• what happened and when the charity first became aware of it

• action being taken to deal with the incident and prevent future problems

• whether and when it was reported to the police or another regulator/ statutory agency (including official reference numbers)

• how you are planning to deal with any media enquiries

If you don’t report?

If you decide not to report an incident, because it is not serious enough, then you do need to keep a record of what you found and what your decision was and why to demonstrate to the Charity Commission that you have taken reasonable steps to deal with the incident.

If you need help with this or any other Charity related issue, please get in touch with the Thomas Westcott charity team.