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Charity Commission serious incident reporting

The Charity Commission continues to have concerns about systemic under-reporting of serious incidents by domestic and international charities.

Charities submitted a total of 2,114 reports of serious incidents relating to safeguarding incidents or issues between 20 February and 30 September 2018, compared to 1,580 serious incident reports about safeguarding received in the whole of 2017-18, and 1,203 received in 2016-17.

The Commission says it is vital that charities, whether they work domestically or around the world, report serious incidents to the regulator. Doing so provides reassurance that trustees are responding appropriately and as the public would expect to the issue itself. The Commission says data on serious incident reporting also allows it to better understand risks facing the sector and take appropriate action.

The Commission’s report finds that, despite recent increases in serious incident reporting, there is significant and systemic underreporting of incidents by charities working at home and abroad:

  • only 1.5% of registered charities have submitted any kind of serious incident report since 2014
  • only 0.9% of charities have reported a safeguarding incident since 2014
  • it is concerned there may be certain groups of charities in which under-reporting is particularly prevalent

Analysis of reports

The regulator undertook detailed analysis of safeguarding reports it received between 1 February and 31 May 2018 (1228 in total) to better understand the nature of the incident being reported and the type of charity making the report.

The analysis revealed:

  • The top five types of charity submitting reports during that time were: overseas aid/ famine relief (29%), disability (12%), religious activities (12%), education /training (12%) and younger people (11%)
  • The majority of reports related to incidents of, or concerns about, potential harm to individuals, including but not limited to sexual abuse or harassment.
  • In cases where an individual was identified as having allegedly been harmed, 47.5% related to a child, and 32% related to an adult (in the remainder the age of the individual could not be identified from the initial report).

Updated guidance on reporting serious incidents by charities

The Commission has also updated its guidance to charities on reporting serious incidents, clarifying a number of areas where charities have indicated that it was not clear enough. For example, the Commission has provided additional guidance on when and how to report potential criminal offences that may have taken place abroad.

The regulator continues to review this guidance to ensure it is as clear and user-friendly as possible.

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