What’s a serious incident and why should you act on it?

The Commission took part in an event in partnership with NIVCA last week that provided a forum for interested parties to feed back their views on Serious Incident Reporting. We were particularly interested in the reaction to our draft guidance on reporting serious incidents and were grateful for the opportunity to explain the regulatory approach behind it.

Our role is simply to ensure that any serious incident is adequately dealt with by charity trustees in accordance with their legal duties. With this aim in mind all charities, whatever their size and whatever their income, must report serious incidents to the Commission.

There are two main reasons for this.

Firstly, it’s the regulator’s role to ensure that legal duties are complied with. If we can see that you’re putting right was has gone wrong, or what could have gone wrong, then the charity can avoid any reputational issues arising. Secondly, reporting incidents means that we can provide regulatory guidance at an early stage and identify problems that may be common.

That’s great, I hear you say, but what is a serious incident?

The answer is located within the draft guidance, along with how these events should be reported to the Commission, as well as other relevant authorities. The guidance will also help charity employees, volunteers, stakeholders and members of the public to recognise serious incidents.

The Commission regards a serious incident as an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in, or risks, a significant:

  • loss of charity money or assets
  • damage to charity property
  • or harm to the work of the charity, its beneficiaries or reputation.

While identifying what counts as a serious incident may involve some common sense some, non-exhaustive, examples of incidents that would need to be reported are as follows.

  • The charity’s Chief Executive and Treasurer have produced false invoices for the charity’s services.
  • Each month, between £100 -£200 goes missing, suspected stolen, from the cash till in the charity shop. It has been going on for six months and has been reported to the PSNI.
  • A significant amount is donated to the charity from an unknown or unverified source.
  • Significant loss of charity funds due to legal costs and/or liabilities incurred in a court case.
  • Charity’s warehouse in a war zone overseas has been raided and the charity’s vehicles/ stock taken at gunpoint.
  • A beneficiary within the charity’s care has, or alleges to have, suffered abuse or serious harm.
  • Any person acting as a trustee while disqualified.
  • The charity has failed to comply with the law on requirements for solicitation statements or professional fundraising agreements.
  • A charity’s laptop, containing the personal details of beneficiaries or staff, has been stolen.

The Commission’s consultation on its draft Serious Incident Reporting guidance is open until 21 July 2017. Further details are available on our main site.

Author: John Tracey

John is the Commission’s Monitoring and Compliance Manager

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