A primary interest of charities must be looking after their beneficiaries.
The Charity Commission requires charities to report actual or alleged serious incidents. Here we respond to the most commonly asked questions relating to serious incident reporting, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
WHAT IS A SERIOUS INCIDENT?
A serious incident is 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
It is left to the trustee’s judgement to decide whether the incident is ‘significant’ in the context of the charity.
COULD COVID-19 TRIGGER A SERIOUS INCIDENT WITHIN OUR CHARITY?
The Charity Commission released guidance on 19 March 2020, which confirms that charity trustees should continue to report serious incidents using the current guidelines (found here).
Examples of serious incidents that charities could face during the coronavirus crisis are:
- Significant financial loss -sudden loss of 20% or more of the charity’s income, which may result in staff being laid off and services stopped.
- Incidents involving partners – a delivery partner of the charity has ceased to operate which prevents the charity from providing services and assistance to its beneficiaries or a subsidiary trading company goes into liquidation which has a material impact on the future of the charity
- Other significant incidents – the charity’s services are severely disrupted due to lack of staff and essential products which materially impacts on the charity’s ability to provide services for its beneficiaries, or the charity becomes insolvent
- Fraud – for example, fraudsters are using phishing calls or emails to either extract money from the charity or to contact potential victims purporting to be from a charity. Any form of fraud may also have a detrimental effect on the charity’s reputation.
- Harm to people who come into contact with your charity - for example where a someone is exposed to coronavirus as a result of the charity’s failure to implement suitable procedures or to follow the government’s current health guidance.
WHOSE RESPONSIBILITY IS IT TO MAKE A SERIOUS INCIDENT REPORT?
It is the responsibility of the charity trustees to report serious incidents to the Charity Commission in a timely manner, using the Charity Commission’s online form.
Trustees should report an actual or alleged incident promptly. This means as soon as is reasonably possible after it happens, or immediately after your charity becomes aware of it. The Charity Commission has said that it will prioritise those incidents that place individuals at risk, or incidents that have had a significant impact on a charity’s operations.
If you would like to discuss any of these issues or have any concerns relating to the legal implications for your charity, please contact Harriet Morgan.
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