Serious incidents reported to regulator 'up by 1,000 last year'

The Charity Commission's latest annual report says that it experienced its 'busiest year'

The number of serious incident reports made by charities to the Charity Commission increased by more than 1,000 last year, its latest annual report shows.

The regulator’s report for the year to the end of March, published yesterday, shows that the commission experienced its "busiest year", with significant rises in serious incident reports, whistleblowing, reports from auditors and the use of the commission’s legal powers.

The number of serious incidents reported rose by more than third, from 2,819 in 2017/18 to 3,895 last year. Of the reports made in 2018/19, 64 per cent related to safeguarding, the commission said.

It has been urging charities to ensure they report serious incidents in the wake of last year’s safeguarding scandal, which first emerged in February 2018.

New compliance cases increased from 2,269 to 2,666 during the same time period, the report says.

Matters of material significance reported by auditors rose to 662, compared with 287 the year before, the annual report shows, and the commission received 185 whistleblowing reports – 85 more than the previous year.

The commission used its regulatory powers 1,864 times, compared with 1,136 in the previous year.

In her introduction to the report, Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said that altghough a £5m increase in government funding for the regulator was welcome it had been swallowed up by an immediate 20 per cent increase in regulatory compliance cases.

"This has proved to be the busiest year for us so far, notably in the area of high-risk case work," she said.

"These pressures result, not least, from increased reporting of serious incidents by charities in the wake of the safeguarding revelations in February 2018; reports have risen by more than a third, year on year.

"We have also seen a significant increase in whistleblowing reports, and in reports from auditors and independent examiners of charities."

The accounts show a revenue underspend of £300,000, equivalent to 1.1 per cent of the commission’s budget.

The report says that this reflects the "tight margins" the commission has been operating under as it tries to use limited resources to tackle rapidly increasing workloads.

Baroness Stowell, chair of the Charity Commission, said in her introduction to the report: "We need to be able to do more in the interest of the public and the nation at large.

"That will require us to create more operating capacity by changing the way we work and increasing our efficiency through greater use of technology. But it will also require more resources."

The commission’s new strategy, which was announced last autumn, came into effect on 1 April 2019, making this the last annual report under the regulator’s old strategic direction.

Future annual reports will measure success against the commission’s new strategic priorities, the report says, rather than simply its execution of core regulatory functions.

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