Regulator suggests a statutory serious incident reporting regime

In written evidence to a committee of MPs probing sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector, the Charity Commission says it is keeping this option in mind

Charity Commission building
Charity Commission building

The Charity Commission has suggested making the serious incident reporting regime a statutory requirement for charities and said it could be extended to cover smaller charities.

In written evidence submitted to MPs on the International Development Select Committee for its inquiry into sexual exploitation and abuse in the aid sector, the commission says it has issues with a lack of reporting of serious incidents by charities.

"The serious incident reporting regime could be made statutory and the criteria on what incidents and information must be provided or how soon after incidents take place reports should be made, could be more prescriptive," the submission suggests.

It adds: "The serious incident reporting regime could be extended to charities with an annual income under £25,000, or made more prescriptive for certain types of charity or certain types of incident."

The regulator says it will "keep these options in mind" while a taskforce set up in the wake of the Oxfam case to review historic serious incidents reported to the commission carries out its work, and make "representations to parliament accordingly".

The commission’s guidance on serious incident reporting says that, as a matter of good practice, charities of all sizes should report serious incidents to the regulator.

It defines a serious incident as an actual or alleged event that results in or risks significant loss of the charity’s money or assets, damage to its property or harm to its work, beneficiaries or reputation.

Charities with annual incomes of more than £25,000 also have a statutory requirement to file annual returns with the commission, each of which should include a declaration confirming the charity has experienced no serious incidents that it did not report to the regulator.

The commission’s response also calls for further funding for the regulator to tackle a recent rise in the number of safeguarding reports, prompted by the Oxfam case.

"The commission is highly likely to need further additional funding to deal with a significant permanent increase in safeguarding reports and cases, and to deal with some of the challenges and complex regulatory work arising," it says.

"That said, we believe we do the best we can with the resources we have, balancing this important area, with others, such as financial abuse, and the various expectations on us."

It says the events of recent months must act as a "final wake-up call for all charities" and they should invest more time and resources in getting governance on safeguarding right.

"What is required is more than the basic givens of policies, processes and reporting," it says.

"It is crucial that trustees and senior executives in charities now demonstrate strong leadership, good governance, confronting historical issues, acknowledging the scale of the problem and working together to deliver an effective response.

"We will support them as regulator in ensuring they do, but ultimately charities must take the lead in acting, and owning and delivering solutions."

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