Most disqualification waiver applications not yet dealt with

Figures obtained by Third Sector show that the Charity Commission is still assessing 14 of 20 waiver applications, with the deadline approaching on 1 August

Charity managers: disqualified persons have until 1 August to get a waiver
Charity managers: disqualified persons have until 1 August to get a waiver

Almost three-quarters of applications for waivers from charity trustees or senior managers who face possible disqualification from their roles next month have not yet been dealt with by the Charity Commission, figures obtained by Third Sector show.

New rules that disqualify people from being senior managers or trustees of charities if they have committed certain offences, such as being put on the register of sex offenders, or if they have unspent convictions for crimes such as terrorism or money laundering, will come into force on 1 August.

The new rules, which were introduced by the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016, complement existing measures that automatically disqualify trustees for bankruptcy or crimes involving dishonesty or deception.

The commission can grant waivers to people affected by the changes to allow them to continue working for charities.

But anyone without a waiver by 1 August will be automatically disqualified, unless they submitted an application for a waiver before the deadline passed.

In response to questions from Third Sector, a spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said the regulator had received 20 applications for waivers, which "equates to five years’ worth of applications being received" since applications under the new rules opened in February.

Of those 20 applications for waivers, three had been granted and three were not covered by the new rules, the spokeswoman said.

But 14 applications were still being assessed, she said, despite the new rules coming into force next month.

The spokeswoman declined to confirm the nature of the offences for which the waiver applications had been made and when the 14 applications had been submitted to the regulator.

The commission said it aimed to process applications for waivers within 21 days.

But Christopher Stacey, co-director of the charity Unlock, which supports people with convictions, told Third Sector he was aware of two applications for waivers that were made in February but had not yet been decided upon.

He said the charity, along with the criminal justice charities Clinks and the Prison Reform Trust, had written to the commission in May to raise concerns about the implementation of the changes.

"We remain concerned that a number of waiver applications are still awaiting a decision," he said. "Two cases we know of submitted waivers in February and have yet to have a decision, and one of these involves someone who could potentially be disqualified from doing their job from 1 August.

"It is completely unacceptable for the commission to be taking so long on what is ultimately a much smaller number of cases than it had anticipated." 

The commission spokeswoman said: "The new rules that amend the long-standing automatic disqualification regime are an important step in better protecting charities against potential abuse and mismanagement.

"Charities should adjust their recruitment and retention practices for trustees and those in or applying for chief executive or finance director-type roles.

"We will grant a waiver only where it is clearly in the interests of the charity to recruit or retain the talents of a particular individual, taking account of the level of risk."

The spokeswoman said the commission’s data showed that charities were increasingly accessing the commission’s guidance on waivers as the 1 August deadline approached.

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