The Commission has recently updated its guidance on how to identify and report serious incidents.

Previously, trustees reported serious incidents via email. There is now a new online form that must be used to report or amend serious incidents reports.

The following information will be required when completing the form:

  • the trustee's contact details, charity name, and if it is registered, the registration number;
  • reference numbers and contact details, if the incident has been reported to any other organisation, such as the police;
  • names and registration numbers of other charities involved in the incident, if relevant;
  • date of the incident;
  • what happened during the incident;
  • the date the charity found out about the incident;
  • how the charity found out about the incident;
  • whether trustees are aware of the incident;
  • what impact the incident has had on the charity’s beneficiaries, finances, staff, operations or reputation;
  • which of the charity’s policies or procedures relate to the incident and whether they were followed;
  • what steps the charity has taken to deal with the incident;
  • what steps the charity has taken to prevent similar incidents; and
  • if applicable, the charity’s media handling or press lines, including a link to a press release if available.

A serious incident in the Commission’s view is an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in, or risks, significant:

  • harm to the charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers, or others who come into contact with the charity through its work;
  • loss of the charity’s money or assets;
  • damage to the charity’s property; and
  • harm to the charity’s work or reputation.

The Commission deems ‘significant’ to be proportionate to the charity, taking account of its staff, operations, finances and/or reputation. Trustees are required to submit serious incident reports promptly after the event, in an open and honest manner, and must be familiar with the updated guidance, as failure to report will be treated by the Commission as non-compliance with the trustees’ legal duties.

The Commission requires such reports to ensure that trustees are acting within their legal duties to protect their charity. Reporting issues demonstrates that the charity trustees have identified the breach and are taking steps to resolve it; protecting the charity’s assets, reputation and people. The Commission may also need to provide advice or guidance, so timely reporting is essential to protect the charity’s reputation and to prevent further damage. In the wider context, reporting also allows the Commission to assess the risks to other charities and helps to identify any trends.

The Commission has also used a new privacy notice to explain how personal data provided in a serious incident report will be used.

Detailed guidance on how to submit a serious incident report can be found on the Government’s website.

Further information

It is the responsibility of the charity trustees to decide whether an incident is significant and should be reported. If you are concerned about the incident reporting process or need advice determining if an incident is significant, please contact Phil Watts.