Charities: reporting serious incidents during the coronavirus pandemic

9th June 2020

During the coronavirus pandemic, charities have been presented with a number of unprecedented scenarios and challenges. However, unlike other business leaders, charity trustees are required to report all serious incidents that arise to the Charity Commission.

This leaves trustees with a new dilemma: which coronavirus-related incidents are serious enough to require a report?

Last week the Commission published new Reporting Guidance on this issue, including common examples of coronavirus incidents and which of these requires a report. This accompanies their standard SIR Guidance, which remains in place and is an important read for all trustees. We have set out these examples in the table below.

Judgement required for serious incident reporting

In its guidance, the Commission emphasises that trustees should still exercise their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the context of their charity, taking account of its staff, operations, finances and reputation. Some key pointers for trustees to consider in doing so are:

  • It is the impact of actions taken on the charity that is key to determining if an incident should be reported. Having to take action to meet government rules, such as closing premises, is not in itself a significant incident.
  • The usual thresholds for financial losses that need to be reported (£25,000 or 20% of the charity’s income) do not apply when considering losses related to the pandemic. Instead, trustees should focus on the significance of the impact of any losses, rather than the amount.
  • Trustees may still delegate the responsibility for deciding which incidents should be reported to others. However, trustees remain ultimately responsible for these decisions, so they should be reported back to the trustees.
  • Reports should be submitted as soon as is reasonably possible after the incident or when the charity becomes aware that a significant harm or loss is highly likely. Reports should be submitted using the Commission’s online form.
  • Where trustees decide not to report an incident, they should keep a brief record of this decision and the reasons for it.

The Commission will prioritise reports of incidents which:

  1. Place individuals at risk;
  2. Risk serious harm to the charity’s work; and/or
  3. Request Commission guidance to help the charity deal with the incident.

Download the Charity Commission’s common examples of when charities should report serious incidents during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you would like any support or assistance with queries relating to whether to submit a Serious Incident Report, or with any other challenges that your charity is currently facing, please let us know. Blake Morgan has a wide range of teams that can help you with managing the challenges presented by coronavirus.

Our charity team has a particular expertise in risk management for charities and we offer some guidance on this on our dedicated page here.

If you have any queries about the guidance above, or there are any other issues we can help you with, please do get in touch with Ben Brice or Laura Sherratt.

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