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Charity Commission reports 82 per cent rise in serious incidents involving vulnerable beneficiaries

By Tim Tonkin, Third Sector Online, 26 October 2012

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell, the regulator's investigations chief, says its annual compliance report highlights failures by trustees to comply with their responsibilities

The number of serious incidents relating to safeguarding of vulnerable beneficiaries rose by almost 82 per cent in 2011/12, according to the Charity Commission’s latest annual compliance report.

Charities Back on Track 2011/12: themes and lessons from the Charity Commission’s investigations and regulatory casework, published today, shows that the number of such incidents rose from 217 in 2010/11 to 394 last year.

It says that they represented more than a third of the 1,027 serious incidents reported to the regulator and accounted for 11 of the 85 investigations concluded during the year.

The report says that 73 of the 85 concluded investigations related to issues stemming from poor governance and lack of awareness among trustees.

Seventeen of the 85 investigations involved breaches of governing documents or a charity acting outside its objects, 16 involved unmanaged conflicts of interest and nine related to fundraising concerns. Some of the investigations involved concerns in more than one area.

Fraud accounted for 18 of the 85 investigations concluded during the year and 56 out of 121 whistleblowing reports were concerned with fraud.

There was a slight fall in the number of serious incidents related to fraud and financial crime, from 371 last year to 364 in 2011/12.

Michelle Russell, head of the Charity Commission’s investigation and enforcement team, said: "Most of our case work this year involves serious concerns around trustees’ lack of awareness or failure to comply with their duties and responsibilities towards their charities.

"Some of our case work could have been avoided had trustees taken more effective steps to fulfil their responsibilities.

"This report makes clear that trustees can make a difference by taking what are often simple and obvious steps to protect their charity’s money, property and beneficiaries."

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