As we come to the end of the summer holidays, it is important that we reflect on what we have all achieved over the last few months in what has been a trying time for most. We are seeing many charities express concern about their finances with even the larger charities having to make redundancies.

For some of us, the 1 September means the end of juggling work with being a teacher for our children at home and sending our children back to school. For others, we are probably adapting to the “new” normal of working from home and are now IT experts when it comes to Zoom calls and the like!

I hope that you were able to enjoy the summer break and perhaps enjoy a staycation in the UK and to remind yourself of the wonderful sights that our country has.

Catch up with all the latest charity updates in this fortnight’s news roundup.

£3.3m Health and Wellbeing “Starting Well” Fund

Jo Churchill, a public health minister, said “This year we have launched the Health and Wellbeing Fund which is centred around Starting Well, to make sure mothers have the help they need to make the right decisions to support their health, and the health of their babies.”

The fund is aimed at improving the lives of babies (up to the age of 2 and half) and their mothers. It is particularly focused on babies from deprived areas or BAME backgrounds.

Those wishing to apply must support the following health outcomes: improvement of perinatal mental health, an increase in babies being breastfed, obesity prevention and support, reducing smoking or smoke-free homes, improvement in learning and speech and language development, high immunisation rates and reduction in rates of preventable disease.

If your charity fits the application criteria you must apply by midday on 30 October 2020. You can find the application and accompanying guidance here.

Toolkit for agile and home working

Many of us are working from home due to the current COVID pandemic and for employers it can create certain practical implications in relation to health and safety, protection from bullying and harassment, data processing and confidentiality and so on. Our Employment Law team, together with our Regulatory and Data Protection teams, have created a helpful toolkit for agile and home working. The toolkit covers:

  • Compliance with key health and safety regulations both general and specific to home and agile working
  • Monitoring, reporting and recording health and safety compliance
  • Impact of employment legislation on home and agile working
  • Guidance on new policies and procedure
  • Best HR practice; ensuring effective management of employees and protection from bullying and harassment
  • Key considerations for processing of data and confidentiality

The fee for the toolkit and guidance is £995 plus VAT. To purchase the toolkit, please email Regena Hodgson.

Impact of funds and confidence

A Third Sector Trends Covid-19 Impact Survey found “there has been a collapse in confidence about future income levels”. The survey looked at expectations of income from various sources, such as private sector, trusts and foundation grants and statutory bodies as well as expectations of how the third sector would work with its volunteers and partners and whether there was a need for its services in the next two years.

Of those surveyed, 56% stated that they expected their income to fall in the next two years. 62% said that they were less confident in securing income from the private sector due to the pandemic also hitting commercial businesses hard. Those charities that relied on trading income were particularly cautious when surveyed, as well as those who felt that trusts and foundations may not be able to sustain their funding of third sector organisations because the pandemic may affect them as well.

However, the survey also included some hope. There were some charities, especially those with little outgoings, who were able to increase their services due to coronavirus funds and giving from supporters and donors.

Interestingly, when many people were rightly focused on the pandemic, the lockdown imposed by Government and the financial worries it brought to many people, one-off online donations to charities such as NSPCC, Stroke Association, Prostate Cancer UK increased 561% in the three months up to 30 June 2020 in findings by goDonate by WPNC. It is encouraging and inspiring that even in these difficult times and with many struggling financially due to redundancy, reduction in work, etc. people can recognise the invaluable work of charities in society.

Diversity on trustee boards

Research by Getting On Board has found that charities need to do more to break the stereotype of trustee boards being “a club filled with old white men”. Getting on Board which is itself a charity, surveyed ethnic minorities, women and people under 30 about trusteeships. One of the main findings to come out of the survey was that these under-represented groups felt that they were not wanted as trustees and that their views and opinions would be ignored.

Diversity, however, was only one of the ways someone may be put off applying for a trustee role. Some said that they felt that charities did not want what they could offer or that they would struggle to find the right charity to suit them.

It may be that as a charity you recognise that more needs to be done to promote diversity on your board or it may be that you can provide guidance to others to achieve diversity on their board.

Trustees’ management of conflicts of interest or loyalty in the administration of a charity

The Charity Commission has recently published the outcome of its inquiry into Muslim Foundation UK where one of its trustees had been disqualified from acting as a trustee of any charity for 10 years, for making comments which were contrary to fundamental British values. The scope of the inquiry was to check the trustees had properly exercised their legal duties and responsibilities, the financial management of the charity and the trustees’ conduct.

Whilst we will not comment on the facts of the case in detail, it serves as a reminder to trustees of their legal obligations to their charity:

  • In this case there was only one trustee who was not related to the (now) disqualified trustee. The Commission highlighted that familial links may have created a lenient attitude to the remarks made by the trustee. This is unlikely to have happened if there had been other independent trustees.
  • Even though the trustees stated that they did not know about the comments made publicly by the disqualified trustee, the Commission found that lack of action or mitigation by the other trustees could have detrimentally impacted the charity. This lack of action and lack of mitigation for reputational damage to the charity could have put the charity and its assets at risk.
  • The trustees had failed to submit an annual return and accounts within 10 months of their financial year (for the two financial years ending 2016 and 2017). This was a breach of duty and misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity. It is important that charities comply with their filing deadlines set by the Charity Commission and, if a company, by company law.
  • The charity’s safeguarding policy was found to be general and not specific to the charity’s activities. Furthermore, no information was given as to how the charity applied the safeguarding policy in practice. As such the Commission found that the trustees had not complied with their duty to safeguard beneficiaries and the children. This demonstrates that it is not simply enough to draft a policy as a tick box exercise. Charities must have appropriate policies in place to protect the risk to their beneficiaries and that the policies must be regularly updated. There must be procedures in place to follow the policy, including regular training for employees/volunteers as well as part of the recruitment of new staff. Those working with vulnerable people must have the appropriate DBS certificates.
  • There were also issues raised about the financial management of the charity. The charity had entered into interest free loans with members of the community but there was no documentation or agreement relating to the loans, such as how repayments were calculated etc. Furthermore, the charity had transferred funds overseas and outside of the regulated banking sector. The charity provided a document to confirm that funds had been given on the basis that it would fund charitable projects overseas but the Commission found that there had been no recorded due diligence checks in respect of the individuals handling the charity’s funds, no clear project proposals had been provided to the trustees and no evidence of monitoring how the funds had been applied.
  • There were also breaches of the provisions within the charity’s governing document, for example, not adhering to one physical meeting a year, not holding at least two trustee meetings per year, etc. The Commission also questioned the quality and accuracy of trustees’ minutes.
For further information

If you would like more details about anything in this newsletter, please speak to or email your usual ACS contact or contact Katie.Crosbie@anthonycollins.com.

Katie Crosbie is an Executive in the Charities and Social Business Team. During lockdown Katie has enjoyed the extra quality time she has had with her little boy. She has attempted to revisit her love of baking and made not one, but two birthday cakes for her son’s birthday earlier this year!