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Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission during the coronavirus pandemic

Guidance for trustees on what matters may need to be reported as a serious incident during the coronavirus pandemic.

We appreciate that during the coronavirus pandemic the charity sector will face extremely demanding and ever-changing challenges. Charities’ primary interest must be looking after the beneficiaries they serve.

It is still important during the pandemic that trustees are aware of matters that may need to be reported as a serious incident. Timely reporting of serious incidents enables us to provide advice and guidance to charities where required. It also helps us to gain a better understanding of the risks facing the sector, which is particularly important now as we seek to understand how the pandemic is impacting on charities.

Our guidance on serious incident reporting continues to be the main resource for helping trustees to decide whether to report. However, we appreciate that the pandemic is giving rise to some unprecedented challenges and scenarios that were not envisaged when this guidance was published.

We have therefore produced a supplementary examples table to help trustees to decide if they need to report an incident that is related to the pandemic. Trustees should still exercise their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the context of their charity, taking account of its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation. However, some key things for trustees to consider are:

  • having to take action to meet government rules, such as closing premises, should not be considered to be a significant incident in itself. It is the impact of this action on the charity that is key to determining if this should be reported
  • we usually expect charities to report any financial losses that don’t involve a crime where they exceed either £25,000 or 20% of the charity’s income. However, these thresholds do not apply when considering financial losses that are related to the pandemic. Trustees should focus on the significance of the impact of any losses rather than the amount
  • trustees may still delegate to others, such as staff members, the responsibility for deciding which incidents should be reported to us. However, such decisions should be reported back to the trustees, who remain ultimately responsible for them
  • use our online form to submit reports, which should be submitted as soon as is reasonably possible after the incident or when the charity becomes aware that a significant harm or loss is highly likely. Remember to use the form to tell us about what the charity is doing about the incident
  • where trustees consider reporting an incident but decide not to report it, they should keep a brief record of their decision and the reasons for it

When deciding how to respond to the reports we receive, we will continue to prioritise those that indicate individuals are at risk or that there is a risk of serious harm to a charity’s work. We will also prioritise reports where we identify that trustees require advice and guidance from us to help them to deal with an incident. This is why it is important to tell us what the charity is doing about the incident.

Supplementary examples table

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