Welcome to our September newsletter.

We hope that you had an enjoyable summer and are excited both for the return to school and the office, and to learn about recent charity news highlights!

Updated charity responsible investment guidance
Draft guidance on responsible investment has been released by the Charity Commission setting out how charities can invest their money ethically. It highlights that responsible investment is an option for all charities. However, trustees must make investment decisions that are in the best interests of their charity and follow the law and good practice regarding financial investments. This includes utilising appropriate skills and expertise, diversifying investments, taking professional advice when needed and reviewing investments regularly.

Responsible investing will allow charities to use their money in a way that better aligns with their charitable purposes. For example, if you are an environmental charity you may not want to invest in fossil fuels, but you could be interested in investing in renewable energy.

Consultation responses to the draft guidance have been mixed, and whilst it does appear that the new guidance is clearer and inspires trustee confidence, there is concern that the current use of the term 'responsible investment' may be too narrow.

If you have any queries about investments, please contact your usual contact at Anthony Collins Solicitors or alternatively Victoria Jardine. We can provide a standard investment policy or draft a bespoke policy for your charity’s needs.

Charity campaigning rules
The Charity Commission has found that the trustees of the poverty charity, Humanity Torbay, have broken the political campaigning rules. An inquiry was opened due to repeated posts on the charity’s website and social media of party-political content.

Whilst the official outcome of the inquiry is yet to be published, a leaked letter from the Charity Commission said that “there had been misconduct and/or mismanagement in the administration of the charity and that the trustees breached their local duties and responsibilities concerning political campaigning and activity”.

It is important for trustees to remember that whilst charities can undertake campaigning and political activities, these must support the delivery of the charity’s purposes. Further, the activities cannot become the continuing and sole activity of the charity or the reason for its existence.

Charities must remain independent and have a balanced involvement with political parties. Whilst charities can lend support to specific policies advocated by political parties if this furthers their charitable purposes, charities must not give support to a candidate, politician or political party. Nor should they fund them. It is important that trustees ensure that their charity does not become a vehicle for expressing personal or party-political views.

The Charity Commission’s campaigning and political activity guidance for charities can be found here. If you have any queries on these issues, please contact your usual contact at Anthony Collins Solicitors or alternatively Edwina Turner.

Nadine Dorries announced as the new Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Nadine Dorries has replaced Oliver Dowden as Culture Secretary in the recent parliamentary reshuffle. In her new role, Dorries will have responsibility for the oversight of charity policy. She will appoint the Charity Commission’s next chair and manage the passage of the Charities Bill and the Dormant Asset Bill through Parliament.

Dorries will be leaving her previous role as Minister for Mental Health, Suicide Prevention and Patient Safety.

Post-Brexit GDPR overhaul
The ex-Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden had announced that UK data laws may change post-Brexit “so that they’re based on common sense, not box-ticking”, signalling a move away from the current GDPR.

The impact of any proposed changes on the charity sector has not yet been outlined. However, both the Chartered Institute of Fundraising and the Fundraising Regulator have said that they will engage with discussions to ensure that the needs of the charity sector are considered. Given the time and resources that charities have had to devote to complying with GDPR, it is understandable that some charities will be feeling worried about further changes. If you have any queries about data protection, please contact Clare Paterson.

Trustee duties to report safeguarding incidents as serious incidents
A recent Charity Commission webinar on trustee duties in a faith charity context highlighted the importance of trustees ensuring that their charities have good safeguarding procedures in place. The Charity Commission gave the advice that if trustees are doubting whether to report a safeguarding incident, then it is best practice to report it. It is much better to proactively report an incident to the Charity Commission and be told that there is not an issue, than for the Charity Commission to uncover an incident during an investigation and ask why it has not been reported.

The Charity Commission advocate a three-stage approach to reporting safeguarding incidents that are also serious incidents:

  1. Report the incident to the relevant authorities, e.g. the police, Ofsted, local council
  2. Follow the Charity Commission guidance
  3. Use the 'Report a serious incident' online form

The Charity Commission has two pieces of guidance on reporting serious incidents: How to report a serious incident in your charity and the new Reporting serious incidents to the Charity Commission during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you have any queries about safeguarding or serious incidents, please contact your usual contact at Anthony Collins Solicitors or alternatively Edwina Turner.

New guidance from HSBC for religious charities
HSBC has introduced new guidance on their safeguard strategy to fight fraud and financial crime. HSBC Safeguard is a series of safeguarding initiatives that involve reviewing customer accounts to check that the customer details held by HSBC are correct. The guidance is designed for religious organisations on the understanding that many people interacting with the bank may be volunteers and might not have completed a safeguarding review before. It highlights the key stages of the procedure; available support and the information charities will need to confirm as part of the process. The guidance can be found here.

Risky things board members do with their emails
As a result of the pandemic, our modes of communication are moving increasingly online. For an in-depth look at the potential risks to resources and relationships caused by inappropriate email use, please see our ebriefing on three risky things board members do with their emails.

Training opportunities
The Community Development Practice Hub will be running a series of online workshops on collaborating with ‘anchor institutions’ from 5 November to 3 December 2021. Anchor institutions such as universities, medical centres, schools, and local government play a key role in their communities. Successful engagement with anchor institutions can lead to better outcomes for community-based projects and initiatives. Book a place for the workshops here.

If you would like advice on community regeneration projects, please get in contact with David Alcock.

Funding opportunities
The Asda Foundation is set to launch Phase 2 of their Bringing Communities Back Together grant stream. Grants are available for not-for-profit groups and local grassroots organisations who are seeking to improve and transform the lives of people within their local communities. Grants of up to a maximum value of £1,000 are available across three grant streams: Celebration Event, Getting Activities Back on Track and Essential Support. Details on how to apply and the grant criteria can be found here.

Faith groups can apply for the UK Government's recently launched £1 million Faith New Deal Pilot Fund. Funding is available for projects which strengthen engagement between local and national government and faith groups to tackle social issues and the impact of Covid-19 on the community. Details of the fund and the application form can be found here.

For more information 

If you would like more details about anything in this newsletter please speak to your usual ACS contact or contact Edwina Turner.