Serious incident reports increase amid whistleblowing improvements, regulator says

The number of serious incidents involving charities that have been reported to the Charity Commission has increased by almost 50% over the last year, according to the regulator’s latest figures.

Its annual report for 2019/20 found that there were 5,730 reports received during the year, compared to 3,895 in 2018/19.

Of the reports received in 2019/20 almost 60% (3,411cases), related to safeguarding concerns.

The increase comes amid a strengthening of the Charity Commission’s approach to dealing with serious incident reports from charities.

This has included the introduction of a new online form for reporting “which has made it quicker and easier for us to determine whether a report requires further regulatory action”.

This has also helped ensure charities can manage incidents better. Since the reporting form was introduced 90% of reports contained all the information the regulator needed to make an assessment, compared to just 30% before the form’s introduction.

Whistleblower improvements

The Charity Commission also says that its handling of whistleblowers has improved. It says that it is communication with those reporting incidents has been aided through the introduction of a helpline operated by whistleblowing charity Protect.

The definition of whistleblower has also been widened to include volunteers and trustees as well as staff members.

“We also have a dedicated and trained in-house team that deals only with whistleblowers, ensuring all whistleblowers receive a phone-call from us, allowing them to provide any further information,” said the regulator.

“We also provide feedback on the outcome of the case that their information resulted in.”

The number of whistleblowing reports has increased by a third over the last year, from 185 in 2018/19 to 247 in 2019/20.

Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson said: “This year, we have sought to open up our services to more customers: we want people to come to us. Only with the involvement and engagement of charities and the public will we ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust.

“This openness is reflected in improvements to the services provided in our contact centre, our handling of whistleblowing reports, and in our changed approach to receiving and assessing serious incident reports from charities.”

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