Serious incident reporting guidance

On 22 September 2017 the Charity Commission published an updated version of its guidance on “reporting serious incidents”.  This sets a framework for voluntary reporting by charities – there is no statutory underpinning save that charities which are obliged to file an annual return have to confirm within the annual return whether or not they have reported any serious incidents. 


Nevertheless, the Commission sees serious incident reporting as a key pillar of its regulatory framework and charities are expected to comply.  Failure to comply may be treated as evidence of mismanagement and misconduct by the trustees.

What has changed?

The new guidance sets out clearly the Commission’s expectation that all charities, regardless of size or income, should report serious incidents (even those below the £25,000 threshold for filing an annual return.)

Under the old guidance, serious incidents were expected to be reported “immediately”.  Now serious incidents are expected to be reported promptly, which means “as soon as is reasonably possible after the serious incident happens or immediately after you become aware of it”. 

There is a detailed 6 page table setting out examples of what is and is not a serious incident.

There is greater clarity on what types and extent of financial loss give rise to a serious incident, for example:

  • Any loss which threatens the charity’s ability to operate and service its beneficiaries
  • Any loss which the charity’s financial reserves are not sufficient to cover
  • Anything that forces a charity into insolvency or to wind up, eg unmanageable debts or reduced income streams.

There is a helpful “reporting checklist” listing what details should be provided.  The Commission will want to know what steps the charity has taken to address the incident and to minimise the risk of recurrence. 

If a charity is likely to report more than 50 incidents a year, it can submit a “discussion request” to the Commission to arrange a regular reporting solution.

Charities will, in time, be able to report serious incidents on line.

What should charities do now?

Charities should ensure:

  • Their procedures and processes are updated so that anything that could potentially be a serious incident is noticed and reported to a central person within the organisation.
  • That person is aware of this new guidance and the timescales and format for reporting to the Commission. 

We regularly assist clients with identifying whether something is a serious incident and we can help draft a serious incident report.  Please speak to your usual contact if you would like any further advice on this.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of September 28, 2017.