Northern Irish regulator proposes new mandatory questions to trustees

In a consultation on information required at registration and when supplying financial returns, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland suggests each trustee should supply contact details

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has proposed making it mandatory for all charity trustees to provide email addresses and mobile telephone numbers to the regulator.

The move comes in a CCNI consultation on plans to introduce new questions that charities must answer in their annual returns plus additional information that organisations applying for charitable registration online must answer.

The regulator said it planned to add new questions to the annual return on subjects including safeguarding, loans and payments to related parties and the use of commercial fundraising partners.

It wants each charity to reveal if any trustee owes any money to it, whether the charity leases any assets such as buildings from any trustees and whether any trustee has been paid for carrying out their role.

It said it intended to ask charities if they had reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner’s Office in the past year.

The CCNI also intends to collect information on what percentage of charitable expenditure relates to charitable purposes for organisations with incomes of less than £250,000 a year.

The commission’s consultation says it intends to add a mandatory section to the annual return that asks for the name, email address and mobile telephone number of each trustee.

If a trustee does not have a direct personal email address or a mobile telephone number, they will be asked to provide alternative email or mobile contacts for use by the CCNI.

The regulator said it proposed adding questions about safeguarding in response to recent safeguarding failures by some major charities and research commissioned by the CCNI that showed it was a significant concern to the public.

All charities in Northern Ireland will be required to answer most of the new questions, the CCNI said, because it did not yet hold enough information to allow it to exclude any charity from any of the question areas.

Myles McKeown, head of monitoring and enquiries at the CCNI, said: "We have carefully drafted a series of questions that will help us gather important data on both individual charities and the charity sector as a whole.

"These questions will be asked when a charity registers with the commission and each time a charity provides its accounts and reports.

"The new questions might mean completing the registration application and annual return takes a little more time, but we hope that gathering this additional information will provide wider benefits, from supporting registration applicants in completing the form to providing new data on the sector."

The new annual return regulations are expected to apply to charities whose financial periods begin on or after 1 January 2020.

The consultation on the new questions is open until 5pm on 22 October.

For more information, click here.

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