Reporting and avoiding serious incidents
It's all too easy to be complacent about serious incidents - 'that'll never happen to us'. But even in well-run charities, things can go wrong.
The best strategy to avoiding problems is being aware of how things could go wrong, taking steps to avoid issues and knowing what steps you would take if something did happen. Awareness and prevention are better than a cure.
Would your board know how to recognise a serious incident and know how to respond? Are you confident that you have taken adequate steps to avoid serious incidents? Here are some useful resources.
Types of serious incidents
An incident should be considered serious when it is significant in the context of your organisation. It refers to the impact on your work including harm to people, loss of money / assets, damage to property, harm to your work / reputation.
Charity Commission data shows that serious incidents generally concern:
- financial crime - for example fraud, theft, cyber, money laundering
- suspicious donations
- other significant financial losses
- terrorism / extremism.
But can also refer to disqualification of trustees and significant data breach / loss.
Between April and September 2018, the Charity Commission received 2452 reports of serious incidents. In the whole of 2017/18, 2818 were received.
Safeguarding and fraud useful links
Is your knowledge about fraud and safeguarding up-to-date? There are many useful resources for charity boards you can use.
- Charity Commission's guidance on safeguarding for trustees
- Jane Hobson's Charity Commission blog - There's no room for doubt around safeguarding: protecting people is too important
- 10 actions trustee boards need to take to ensure good safeguarding governance - Charity Commission infographic (PDF)
- NCVO's resources on safeguarding including how to write a safeguarding policy
- NSPCC's safeguarding standards and guidance (England) if you work with children and young people.
- Charity Commission's guidance on fraud
- Internal financial controls for charities (CC8)
- Charity Fraud Awareness Week resources.
We have held two workshops for Chairs / Vice Chairs to think more about serious incidents. The events were delivered by The Charity Commission and gave Chairs the opportunity to find out about the role of the regulator, the trends that they see and to learn from them.
We live tweeted through the Birmingham event, sharing key points and useful resources. You can access the full Twitter thread here (start at the top).
The Birmingham event was kindly supported by VWV Law Firm. Lawyers from VWV have shared their insights into the Charity Commission's recent work on safeguarding in these blog posts:
- 4 key points to take away from the new serious incident reporting guidance by Jamie Hobday, December 2018
- Safeguarding and serious incident reporting - new Charity Commission guidance by Andrew Wherrett, November 2018.
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