Bates Wells Briefing for Charities & Social Enterprises | 31 March

Bates Wells highlights

Charities, Social Enterprise

If you missed our free “Coronavirus and your charity” webinar last week, you can register here to view a recording of the session. If you have any questions concerning matters raised by our speakers, please do get in touch with us directly.

For the latest on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) applies to charities, see here.  

At a glance

The Charity Commission has updated its coronavirus guidance for the sector to cover safeguarding issues and SORP.

NCVO has published guidance about whether people can volunteer during lockdown. 

The Disclosure and Barring Service has said it will prioritise applications for DBS checks for “those who are assisting in responding to this national emergency”.

Companies House has launched an online process for companies to apply for an automatic 3-month extension to file accounts.


Emergency legislation receives Royal Assent

The Coronavirus Bill received Royal Assent on 25 March 2020, becoming the Coronavirus Act 2020 (CA 2020). The fast-tracked passage of this emergency legislation provides the government, devolved administrations and authorities with extensive powers to respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Charity Commission Coronavirus guidance

The Charity Commission has updated its Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector page to cover:

  • Safeguarding – this reminds charities of their obligations to protect and safeguard beneficiaries, volunteers and staff at this time
  • New SORP guidance on including the impact of the virus in charity.

Government support for the sector

Third Sector reports Boris Johnson has said culture secretary Oliver Dowden and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are ‘looking at a package of measures to support charities’.

Big Society Capital has asked Westminster for emergency cash injection as many charities and social enterprises will need grants to help them at this difficult time. Big Society Capital alongside twenty other Social Investment organisations believe that there is an urgent opportunity to help many through this by providing loans through an emergency liquidity facility.

Furlough scheme

Here’s our briefing, published last week, on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) based on the most recent government guidance.

News from funders

CAF has launched a £5m rapid response Fund to help smaller charitable organisations affected by the impact of Covid-19. Grants of up to £10,000 will be made available in as little as 14 days. 

Coordinated by London Funders, the £5m London Community Response launched last week.

Statement from Dawn Austwick, CEO, The National Lottery Community Fund: Our funding approach in response to COVID-19. It will prioritise faster payments for existing grant holders and applicants, where the activities are specifically geared to supporting communities through this crisis and helping organisations overcome any liquidity issues caused by Covid-19​​​​​​. Third Sector magazine provides commentary.

Arts Council England creates £160m emergency fund for those organisations and individuals who will need it during this crisis, and it has also changed the funding requirements for individuals and organisations currently in receipt of their funding.

In light of the coronavirus crisis, Big Society Capital announced significant changes to the Growth Fund, including a six month interest-free period, to enable fund managers to support social enterprises and charities in their portfolios and provide liquidity.


Charity Tax Group reports temporary changes to the VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 have been announced to help businesses manage their cash flow. See this HMRC guidance.


The government has announced a £5 million grant for leading mental health charities, administered by Mind, to fund additional services for people struggling with their mental wellbeing during this time. This could include telephone and online support services for the most isolated and vulnerable.  Public Health England has also published new online guidance setting out principles to follow to help people to manage their mental health.

The Department of Health and Social Care and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government have announced £2.9 billion of funding to allow patients who no longer need urgent hospital treatment to return home. The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • £1.6 billion will go to local authorities so they can respond to other COVID-19 pressures across all the services they deliver, including support for the adult social care workforce and for services helping the most vulnerable in their communities (including the homeless). 
  • £1.3 billion will be used to enhance the NHS discharge process so patients who no longer need urgent treatment can return home safely and quickly and the additional hospital beds will be available across England.

Community groups/volunteering

NCVO has published this very useful guidance about whether people can volunteer during lockdown. 

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published a blog on “Community groups and COVID-19: what you need to know about data protection”. 

Also see under Safeguarding/DBS checks below.

Social finance

Amit Bouri: Impact investors are responding to ‘a crisis without a playbook’. Pioneers Post interviews the CEO of the GIIN to talk about how impact investors are responding to a pandemic-induced crisis that has both health and financial impacts.

Housing and homelessness

See here for a letter to all local authorities in England to update them on plans to protect rough sleepers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Regulator of Social Housing has written to all registered providers of social housing setting out the changes it is making to its regulatory approach in response to Coronavirus.

Culture and creative

This webpage Culture at your fingertips from home summarises a wide range of cultural experiences now accessible from home thanks to £160m Arts Council funding and the DCMS funded Digital Culture Network. 

Safeguarding/DBS checks

The Chief Executive of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Eric Robinson has issued a statement which includes that the DBS will “prioritise applications for DBS checks for those who are assisting in responding to this national emergency, making sure where possible, checks are carried out within 24 hours and also checking the Barred lists to make sure applicants are not already barred from working in regulated activity.”

To ensure that necessary DBS checks can still be carried out during the COVID-19 outbreak, and to avoid delays in processing, the DBS standard and enhanced ID checking guidelines have been changed for an unspecified temporary period to enable the following:

  • ID documents to be viewed over video link, rather than an ID checker having to be in physical possession of the documents. 
  • Scanned images of ID documents to be used in advance of a DBS check being submitted.

Applicants will be required to present original versions of their ID documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role.  These changes came into force with immediate effect on 19 March 2019. COVID-19: Changes to standard and enhanced ID checking guidelines (19 March 2020).

Data protection

See above under Community Groups/Volunteering.


The Cabinet Office has published a second procurement policy note 02/20: Supplier relief due to COVID-19 (PPN 02/20). It sets out information and guidance for public bodies concerning payment to suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the COVID-19 outbreak, and that suppliers remain in business.  PPN 02/20 suggests that contracting authorities should, among other measures:

  • Urgently inform suppliers who they believe are “at risk” of financial difficulty that they will continue to be paid as normal until at least the end of June, even if service delivery is disrupted or suspended.
  • Adopt the most appropriate payment measures to support supplier cash flow.
  • Ensure invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately on receipt.

The Cabinet Office states that suppliers should agree to act on an “open book basis” and make cost data available to the contracting authority during this period. They should continue to pay employees and “flow down” funding to subcontractors.  PPN 02/20 has immediate effect until 30 June 2020.

NCVO has reported on these changes here

Companies House

Companies House has launched an online process by which companies can apply for an automatic and immediate 3-month extension to file accounts. This is available if the company’s accounts will be late because it is affected by COVID-19, and if its filing deadline has not yet passed. Companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.

Gender pay gap reporting

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the Government Equalities Office and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have suspended enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20). The decision means there will be no expectation on employers to report their data.

Charity Commission

Inquiry reports

The commission has published an inquiry report into Anaya Aid (1152971)  in relation to its activities in Syria.  The report includes findings of misconduct and/or mismanagement in relation to: the charity’s due diligence into partner organisations, evidence of the end use of its funds, and cash couriering. It also finds that the charity only partially acted on its previous engagement with the commission including an Action Plan. The commission has issued the charity with an Official Warning, requiring it to take steps to rectify the matters set out in the report.

The commission has published an inquiry report into Al-Fatiha Global (1056562) making several findings of “serious” mismanagement and/or misconduct.  These include various issues around aid convoys (which “[t]he Commission does not condone or support … as an effective means of delivering humanitarian aid”), as well as internal governance and financial controls. The report also notes that: “The inquiry saw no evidence of a media handling process, policy or any mechanisms in place for making public statements, which would be expected for a charity of this size undertaking high risk activity overseas and likely to attract adverse media attention.” See also this press release.

People survey

The commission has published the results of its People Survey.

Trading Subsidiary Health Check

Has it been some time since you set up your trading subsidiary? Our team of charity lawyers can help you to keep up to date with the latest guidance around the relationship between charities and non-charities, ensure that you are taking account of the latest accounting guidance and are making the most of the tax advantages for your charity. Click here to find out more.

Disclaimer – The information contained in this update is not intended to be a comprehensive update – it is our selection of the website announcements which we think will be of interest to charities and social enterprises. The content is necessarily of a general nature – specific advice should always be sought for specific situations.

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 March 31, 2020.