Understandably, charities are concerned about what to do during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, so here we have set out our response to the most commonly asked questions.
The Charity Commission wishes to assure charities that their approach to regulation during this uncertain period will be as flexible and pragmatic as possible in the public interest, whilst helping trustees to be aware of and think about the wider or longer impact of their decisions on their charity.
CAN OUR CHARITY ASSIST WITH COVID-19?
Naturally, many charities are considering whether they can help in the effort to tackle COVID-19 and its severe impact on people across the UK and worldwide. In the first instance, you should consider how your charity might be able to help under your existing charitable objects as set out in your governing document.
For example, your existing objects may refer to the relief of need or advancement of health/saving of lives. In which case, your charity may well be able to help. Any help given must be in furtherance of your charitable objects and particular regard should be had to any prescribed area of benefit or class of beneficiaries.
If your existing objects do not allow you to help, you may be able to amend them. This must be done in accordance with your governing document and with the Charity Commission’s prior consent, where applicable. We recommend that you obtain specialist legal advice before proceeding in this way.
The Charity Commission has indicated that they will prioritise requests required urgently because of COVID-19.
Further details on the impact of COVID-19 on trustee meetings, including holding electronic meetings, can be found here.
IS THERE ANY GUIDANCE ON THE FILING OF ANNUAL ACCOUNTS?
Wherever possible, the Charity Commission ask trustees to try and file annual reports and accounts on time. However, where the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic might prevent this, charities with an imminent filing date can email the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice and/or to request an extension.
The Charities SORP-making body has published guidance on the implications of COVID-19 on charity financial reporting, which can be found here.
DO I NEED TO MAKE A SERIOUS INCIDENT REPORT TO THE CHARITY COMMISSION?
The primary interest of charities must be looking after the needs of their beneficiaries. It is ultimately the responsibility of the charity trustees to continue to report serious incidents in line with the Charity Commission’s guidance.
The Charity Commission has stated that it will continue to prioritise those incidents that place individuals at risk, or incidents that have had a significant impact on a charity’s operations, thus resulting in serious harm to the charity’s work.
It is critical to ensure that charities continue to protect and safeguard their beneficiaries, volunteers and staff. More information on reporting serious incidents can be found here.
If you have any legal concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, please contact Harriet Morgan.
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