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The Charity Commission requires charities and their trustees to report serious incidents to the Charity Commission. This has been a requirement for several years. 

The responsibility for a charity to report remains with the trustees, although they are able to ask an employee or professional advisor to report on their behalf.

  • A serious incident is still defined as: an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant:
  • harm to your charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your charity through its work 
  • loss of your charity’s money or assets
  • damage to your charity’s property
  • harm to your charity’s work or reputation

Whether the matter is significant is determined by the effect that the event has on the charity and therefore the context of the event is relevant. 

The report will include details of the event, its effect on the charity, what action has been taken by the charity as a result of the event, and also whether the matter has been reported to other organisations or authority.

However during the pandemic the charity Commission have issued revised guidance. 

The revised guidance from the charity commission during the pandemic still requires matters to be reported if they are a material or significant event to the charity. However, the additional guidance provides examples of matters which may have been regarded as serious, but in the context of the pandemic may now not be the case. 

In the revised advice, which can be found HERE, examples are available of what is currently likely to be regarded as a significant incident. 

For Example: Normally, if a charity suffered a drop in income of £25,000 or 20% of its income then that would be regarded as a serious incident. However, the revised guidance states that the trustees should focus on the significance of the loss of income on the charity and the impact this may have. Should that result in the likelihood of the charity not being able to deliver its services, or beneficiaries being put at risk, or the future of the charity’s existence being questioned then the matter should be reported.

A further example is: should a member of staff contract the Coronavirus, that in itself may not be a reportable incident, but the impact of that on the services of the charity or if it is passed to beneficiaries, may result in it becoming a reportable incident.

The emphasis of the revised guidance appears to be that trustees are required to assess the impact of the events which may take place. As a result of those assessments it is very important that appropriate records of the decisions are made and that they will provide a strong indication of good governance by the trustees. Failure to record the discussion and decision is a significant failing on the trustees behalf, and in addition may be regarded as an indication of poor governance by the trustees which could lead to further enquiries.

For further advice on this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me or your local Thomas Westcott office.