The number of serious incidents reported by charities to the Charity Commission rose by two-thirds over the past year, the regulator’s annual report shows.
The regulator has today published its annual report, outlining its work in the year to 31 March 2015, alongside its strategic plan for 2015-18, which is called Giving the Public Confidence in Charities and outlines its four strategic aims.
The annual report shows that the commission received 2,129 reports of serious incidents in 2014/15, up from 1,280 in the previous year, following various efforts to improve trustees’ awareness of the obligation to report such incidents.
The report says: "While we are pleased about the increase in reporting, our case work continues to reveal too many instances where charities have experienced serious incidents but have failed to report them to us."
The commission defines a serious incident as something that results in or risks significant loss of a charity’s money or assets, damage to its property or harm to its work, beneficiaries or reputation.
The report also shows that the commission opened 103 statutory inquiries and 1,024 operational compliance cases in the year. This is an increase from 64 statutory inquiries in 2013/14 and 15 the year before that. The commission also used its legal powers on 1,060 occasions in 2014/15, up from 790 in 2013/14 and 216 in 2012/13.
The commission received 7,192 applications for registration in 2014/15, approving 4,648 of these. The equivalent figures were 6,661 and 4,968 in 2013/14. Its First Contact team received 57,075 calls in the year, down from 88,822 the year before, but email inquiries rose from 48,274 to 55,131.
It also exchanged more information with other public authorities, making and receiving a total of 1,949 disclosures in the year, 203 more than the year before and 410 more than in 2012/13. "Most of these disclosures were from the commission to other agencies; we are working closely with our partners to encourage them to increase the number of disclosures they make to us," the report says.
The report also shows that the commission’s staff count rose from 310 to 319, with that rise all accounted for by temporary agency staff. The regulator’s total operating costs were £20.8m, down from £22.3m the year before.
The commission’s four strategic aims as set out in its new plan are protecting charities from abuse or mismanagement, enabling trustees to run their charities effectively, encouraging greater transparency and accountability in charities and operating as an efficient, expert regulator with sustainable funding.
Among the ways in which it intends to achieve the final aim is "consulting on proposals for alternative funding options, including an annual charge for registered charities", the document says.
In their joint introduction to the annual report, Paula Sussex and William Shawcross, chief executive and chair of the commission respectively, write: "Our new strategic plan, which was agreed by the board in May, sets out our principal objectives for the next three years. The plan is ambitious, and it will require the continued commitment and resolve of the board and our staff to meet our aims. But, as this annual report makes clear, the commission is well on the way to becoming the risk-based, robust, proactive and proportionate regulator that the public, and charities, expect and deserve."