Our previous round-up began by sharing the news that two vaccines had shown very promising test results. Now, here we are, not even a month later, and the first vaccines have already been administered!

However, there is still a long way to go and the fact that so much of England is currently in tier 3 is a stark reminder that this pandemic is not over yet.

This year has been challenging for all, both personally and professionally. The charities sector has been hit particularly hard as social distancing rules and local lockdowns have limited the ways charities can raise funds and provide their much-needed services. As we reach the end of the year, it is important to look back at the trials and tribulations of 2020, to look forward optimistically to 2021 and, somewhere in between, to enjoy a very Merry Christmas!  

Catch up below with the latest charity updates in our final news round-up of 2020.

Government publishes guidance for places of worship and religious festivals
The Government has published updated guidance for the safe use of places of worship in England. Now the national lockdown is over in England (for now?!), places of worship are once again allowed to open in all tiers. However, the following rules now apply:

  • a risk assessment should be carried out to determine how many people can safely be accommodated (following social distancing) during worship. Children are allowed to attend events so long as Covid-19 secure guidelines are followed;
  • marriages, civil partnerships and other weddings can take place with up to 15 guests in attendance but guests should socially distance from anyone outside of their “bubble”; and
  • funerals continue to take place with up to 30 guests but, again, guests should socially distance from anyone outside of their “bubble”. Commemorative events (such as wakes and the scattering of the ashes) can also take place but with up to 15 guests only and such events should not be held in a private home or garden.

Additional rules based on tier restrictions may also apply. If you do need any further information, then please click here to read the Government’s tier-specific guidance.

The Government has also published additional guidance for celebrating religious festivals.

Action Fraud: “Remain viligant when making charitable donations”
The festive period is often seen as a time to show goodwill to all and many express this by making charitable donations which will, we expect, be needed more than ever this year. Action Fraud, the fraud and cybercrime reporting centre, have released figures showing that sadly, nearly £350,000 in charitable donations were fraudulently taken last year.

Action Fraud as part of its #FraudFreeXmas campaign has joined with the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator to issue guidance in an effort to reduce fraud this year. They recommend the following:

  • check that a charity is genuine (i.e. by checking the charity name and registration number online or checking whether the charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator) before sharing any financial information;
  • ask to see the ID badge of any collectors on the street;
  • do not click on links or attachments in suspicious emails or respond to requests for personal or financial details;
  • type in the web address of the charity, rather than clicking links; and
  • be cautious when donating to online fundraising pages.

If, after making these changes, you think that it is fake appeal – report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Charities should also take note of the top tips provided; sharing this information with potential donors not only to reduce the risk of money being fraudulently taken, but also to ensure the charity receives their all-important donations. Further information can be found on the Charity Commission’s website or by clicking here.

Giving gifts to trustees? Don’t fall foul of the guidance
Some charities may be considering giving gifts to their trustees over Christmas as a gesture of goodwill to thank them for their hard work, especially during this year. Despite best intentions, charities should be aware of the rules on “honorarium payments” in the CC11 guidance on payments to trustees. Generally speaking, the value of all gifts and honorarium payments (not including out of pocket expenses) made in a financial year should not exceed £1000 overall. Gifts and honorariums that would result in the charity exceeding the threshold may be considered a payment for being a trustee which could have a raft of implications and may not be authorised unless the Commission approves.

Even if the gift is within the £1000 threshold, it is still essential that the charity is able to justify the payment as being in the best interests of the charity.

New 2020 Charity Governance Code
The Charity Governance Code is neither a legal nor regulatory requirement, but it does set principles and recommended practices to assist charity trustees in demonstrating high standards of governance. As part of their regular review, the Charity Governance Code steering group has reviewed over 800 responses in an effort to continue to improve the Code.

The 2020 review has led to amendments and additions being made particularly to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Integrity principles setting clearer outcomes for the board of trustees. This includes ensuring the principles help to deliver benefit to the public and improve decision making by considering a variety of perspectives, experiences and skills, whilst the changes to Integrity focus on ethics and culture.

This has been implemented by increasing the emphasis on upholding the charity’s values and creating a new “right to be safe” (which relates to safeguarding and ensuring everyone that has contact with the charity can speak up and raise concerns).

For further information on the new Code please click here.

CIGA 2020 insolvency measures extended
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (CIGA 2020) introduced a host of welcomed temporary insolvency measures to help deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. In our mid-October news round-up, we explained that several of the measures had been extended beyond their original expiry on 30 September. The good news for charitable companies, (exempt) charitable community benefit societies and charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs) is that two of the measures introduced by CIGA 2020 have been extended even further!

The prohibitions on presenting winding-up petitions and issuing statutory demands were due to expire on 31 December 2021 these are now extended until March 2021.

CIGA 2020 also gave companies and CIOs the flexibility to hold virtual Annual General Meetings (AGMs). This measure has also been extended, allowing meetings to be held virtually until 30 March 2021. Those who read my previous article (which can be found here) may recall that the previous extension to this measure did not extend the period for holding your AGM beyond 30 September, if you were required to do so between 26 March and then. It is important to note that this is still the case and the new extension still does not allow a postponement of AGMs that should have been held by 30 September. If you’re late, you’re late, but at least now virtual general meetings can continue to be validly held electronically, for a while longer.

Racial inequality in health and social care
In November, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a statutory inquiry to examine racial inequality in the health and social care sector. The aim of the inquiry is to consider how the treatment of health and social care workers has been influenced by their race, working conditions and employment and immigration status during the pandemic.

The Commission is calling for ethnic minority workers in health and social care, their colleagues, organisations supporting workers and employees in the health and social care sector to take part in a confidential survey. All submissions need to be sent by 7 February 2021. Please contact ri@equalityhumanrights.com for further information.

Charity Commission registration services are taking a Christmas break
The Charity Commission have announced that their usual “Apply to register a charity” service will not be available from 4pm on Tuesday 22 December to 10am on Monday 4 January as part of their scheduled maintenance programme. During this down period, it will not be possible to start a new application or continue with an existing application. Any work done on existing applications can be saved until 4pm on Tuesday 22 December – so don’t forget to click save!

Please also note that the Charity Commission deletes unsubmitted applications if they have not been updated in three months. If an application is due to be deleted during the down period, the Commission has confirmed that it will be deleted as usual and so if you need to retain your draft application, update and save it now.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Well what a year it has been?! I’m sure like me, if we would have been told this time last year what 2020 would bring, we would not have believed it, yet we have seen many fantastic human responses to the pandemic including mammoth charitable causes – we salute you Captain Sir Thomas Moore! But not just the charity or fundraising successes that made the news, we know that there have been many individuals and organisations alike that have helped in a myriad of ways during possibly one of the toughest, strangest years, definitely in my lifetime. 

So, to mark the end of our final news round-up of 2020, all that is left to say on behalf of the team and Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP is: Merry Christmas and very best wishes for a safe and Happy New Year! 

Our charities news round-up will return in 2021 to help keep you up-to-date with the latest charities sector news. And we look forward to working with you again in 2021 when we will continue to strive to improve lives, communities and society.

For more information

If you would like further details about anything in this newsletter, please get in touch with your usual ACS contact or contact Sarah Patrice.