Charity Commission records dramatic rise in whistleblowing disclosures

The Charity Commission has reported a 75% rise in the number of whistleblowing disclosures it has received over the last year.

While in 2019/20 it received 247 disclosures about charities, in 2020/21 this leapt to 431.

The numbers of whistleblowing disclosures has risen steadily since the figures were first recorded in 2015/16, when the regulator received 87 disclosures.

This year’s rise is the largest since 2018/19 when the regulator recorded 185 disclosures, an 83% increase on the previous year.

The majority whistleblowing disclosures this year are from employees (51%), down on the previous year’s figure of 63%.

The Charity Commission says this reflects a higher number of disclosures from other sources, most notably trustees, up from 12.5% of disclosures in 2019/20 to 20.6% this year.

“We welcome this as part of the recent change in our approach to whistleblowing and in wanting to hear from a wider range of people associated with charities so we can identify harm at an earlier stage,” said the regulator.

The key issues raised in 2020/21 were around governance (32%), safeguarding (29%) and financial management (28%)

“Financial harms more than doubled in the last year,” said the regulator.

“We think the increase in incidence may be linked to the financial challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added.

The regulator says that a change in its handling of whistleblowing reports is another factor in the rise of disclosures. This includes an offer to speak directly to each whistleblower.

“Those who want to make a disclosure to us have an easy way to approach us with their concerns and a phone call indicates that they will be listened to. We consider this to be one of the reasons why we have seen such an increase in whistleblowing disclosures made to us,” it added.

Education and training charities were the subject of the most disclosures, cited in 253 cases. Disability charities accounted for 104 disclosures and 31 related to overseas aid charities.

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