Bates Wells Briefing for Charities & Social Enterprises | 7 April

Bates Wells highlights

Services
Charity
Sectors
Charities, Social Enterprise
Type
Updates

Today we held a joint Bates Wells/NCVO webinar on “Finance and Your Charity: Navigating the Government Schemes; Managing Solvency”.  You can register here to hear a recording.

If you missed our previous webinar looking at a wide range of coronavirus implications for organisations, you can register here to see a recording.


At a glance

The Charity Commission has updated its COVID guidance to add information about changing charitable objects.

The DCMS Committee convened remotely last week to consider the increased demand facing charities.

ICSA, the Chartered Governance Institute, has published guidance on good practice for virtual board and committee meetings.

The government has announced plans to change insolvency law, including suspending the wrongful trading provisions in the Companies Act 2006.

The Regulator of Community Interest Companies has issued COVID guidance.


Charity Commission

The commission has updated its COVID guidance to add information about:

  • changing charitable objects – the Commission says it will prioritise requests required urgently because of COVID-19; and
  • sources of support from other organisations eg NCVO, Small Charities Coalition, Welsh Council for Voluntary Action.

Helen Stephenson, CEO of the Charity Commission, has written for Civil Society Media “Covid-19 highlights the lifeline that charities are to so many – and we are playing our part as regulator”.  She refers to the topics the Commission has issued specific COVID guidance about and says “If you have further ideas on what we should be doing, please let us know.


General

Sector bodies are working jointly on the EveryDayCounts campaign to provide the evidence to help Government understand that investing in the sector and preventing its collapse is essential.  Suggested actions include:

  • Use the #EveryDayCounts campaign badge on your website, emails and social media to show support and promote the campaign. Download graphics here. 
  • Write to your MPs – using this template letter 
  • Mobilise your supporters – by asking them to write to their MP using the template letter above 
  • Share your stories; use local media, social media using the hashtags #EveryDayCounts and get your stories out there in the following format: what are you doing to support in response to COVID19 crisis (through existing services and/or additional activity you have taken on); highlight any increases in your activities as a result of the crisis; highlight any capacity or financial squeezes where you can; tag @dianabarran and thank her for all she is doing to fight for charities; tag @rishisunak and highlight the need for financial support; tag local media outlets/journalists/mainstream media; share short videos of how this is impacting your charity and beneficiaries right now.

We Stand With The Sector. Approximately 150 foundations and other funders have signed a joint statement committing to continued support and flexibility for the civil society sector during the Coronavirus crisis.

NCVO has published an interesting blog about adapting usual evaluation methods during the crisis.


Funding

The DCMS Committee convened remotely last week to consider the increased demand facing charities. See here for a recording of evidence given by Karl Wilding (NCVO), Martin Houghton-Brown (St Johns Ambulance) and Chris Wade (MNDA).  In total it lasts 1 hr 20 mins.  Civil Society Media draws out some key points made here.  They include:

  • NCVO is expecting that the loss of income during the next quarter to the charity sector will be in the region of £4bn.
  • NCVO’s very rough calculation was that a maximum of one in three charities can deploy the furloughing scheme.

Civil Society Media reports Penny Mordaunt, the paymaster general, has hinted that the Treasury has plans for a “large package of support” for charities during the coronavirus crisis. She made the comments in a video posted on her website and social media last week. She also used the video to back charities’ calls for a “bespoke” response designed specifically for the sector.

NCVO is continuing to make the case to government for a package of financial support for the sector. Evidence of the financial danger that charities are in is crucial so do please share your story with NCVO using this case study form.


Tax

Charity Tax Group reports HMRC has postponed the requirement to implement digital links for Making Tax Digital until April 2021.

Also see first item below under Fundraising.


Governance

The Chartered Governance Institute has published this guidance on good practice for virtual board and committee meetings, in light of the pandemic and associated restrictions.


Insolvency law

Last week the government announced plans to change insolvency law, to help companies stay afloat through the crisis.  According to the press release, the plans include:

  • a moratorium for companies giving them breathing space for from creditors enforcing their debts for a period of time whilst they seek a rescue or restructure;
  • protection of their supplies to enable them to continue trading during the moratorium; and
  • new restructuring plan, binding creditors to that plan.  The proposals will include safeguards for creditors and suppliers to ensure they are paid while a solution is sought. 

The government will also temporarily suspend the wrongful trading provisions to give company directors greater confidence to use their best endeavours to continue to trade during this pandemic emergency, without the threat of personal liability should the company ultimately fall into insolvency.  For more see our Briefing “Charity insolvency and rescue mechanisms – a coronavirus guide”.  


Safeguarding

See below under Education and Health.


Fundraising

The government has confirmed charities can claim Gift Aid on the value of tickets for cancelled events if the patrons have agreed not to be refunded for the cost of the ticket and agree for the same amount to be treated as a donation. The charity will need to make sure the patrons have made a Gift Aid declaration for their donations to qualify for Gift Aid, confirming that they have, or will have, paid enough tax to cover the amount the charity will claim on their donations.

The annual fundraising campaign, Giving Tuesday, has announced an extra day of global giving on 5th May.

The Fundraising Regulator has appointed three new members to its board; Guy Parker (Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority), Martin Price, and Reshard Auladin.


Education

On 27 March, the Department for Education published interim COVID safeguarding guidance for all schools, whether maintained, non-maintained or independent (including academies, academy trusts, free schools and alternative provision academies), maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units.

The Department for Education has updated its Coronavirus (COVID-19): free school meals guidance for schools to include information on its national voucher scheme for children who are eligible for free school meals, but who cannot receive these as a result of staying at home due to the COVID-19 epidemic.

Ofqual has set out details for schools, colleges, students, parents & carers on how GCSEs and A levels will be awarded following the cancellation of this year’s exams.


Health and social care

Seehere for a joint statement from Justin Tomlinson MP, Helen Whately MP and Vicky Ford MP outlining how the government plans to support disabled people, their carers, and their families during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance on how local authorities can use the new temporary Care Act 2014 provisions introduced under the Coronavirus Act 2020 (CVA 2020) to prioritise care and support to the most vulnerable. The provisions of the CVA 2020 concerning adult social care and support (section 15 and Part 1 of Schedule 12) came into force on 31 March 2020 under the Coronavirus Act 2020 (Commencement No 2) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/388). For more see this Bates Wells’ Briefing. 

The Care Quality Commission has published interim guidance on DBS and other recruitment checks aimed at allowing people to be recruited or allowed to volunteer as quickly as possible. 

Also see first item under Social finance below.


Social enterprise

The Regulator of Community Interest Companies has issued COVID guidance which includes:

  • What filings can be done online 
  • In relation to paper filings and payments, that it is investigating alternative methods of considering any paper filings and payments 
  • Recognition that some CICs will have a period of time where they may be unable to provide normal services and meet the community benefit that they were set up to serve. The CIC Regulator says this can be reported in the Annual CIC report, filed with CIC Accounts, to explain any change in the delivery of the community interest company. 
  • Some signposting to government funding for which CICs may be eligible.

Social finance

Big Society Capital and Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity have partnered to launch the Good Food Fund, a new £1.8m Accelerator and Venture Fund to back challenger brands fighting childhood obesity.

Sport England announced a £195 million package to help sport and physical activity through coronavirus. The package is made up of a £20m Community Emergency Fund, a £5m pot for existing partners, an additional £55m to support the sector, and a £115m rollover of current funding into 2021/2022.

Gas company, Cadent, has set up a new foundation to provide funding to projects that support people living in vulnerable situations and energy poor communities, and work to protect and preserve our natural environment and create a sustainable energy future. The foundation will provide £20+m of grants to charities and community groups over the next 5 years. The foundation has already committed £240,000 to help food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network as they seek to support people affected by coronavirus.

Charities establishing new best practice with the ‘ESG investing Olympics’. Colin Baines, Investment Engagement Manager at Friends Provident Foundation, writes for Civil Society Media providing an update on the Foundation, together with Joffe Trust and Blagrave Trust, inviting investment managers to make proposals for a challenging responsible investment mandate of £33.5m.

Civil Society Media interviews Paul Abberley, Chief executive officer of wealth management firm Charles Stanley, about the developing landscape of responsible investment, noting that the subjective nature of ESG performance analysis and inconsistencies between rating agencies on ESG are both problematic. For more, the head of charities at Rathbones, Andrew Pitt, also writes for Civil Society Media (here) describing ESG in the firm’s strategy for long-term investment and its involvement with the Principles for Responsible Investment.


Local authorities

Local authorities in England have been given new powers to hold public meetings virtually by using video or telephone conferencing technology.

The Local Government Association has published guidance “Protecting vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak”.  The guidance aims to assist the NHS, community and voluntary sector and other partner agencies to understand the role and contribution of local government in supporting vulnerable people.

The Local Government Association has also issued COVID-19 outbreak guidance that focuses on specific issues that are relevant to the work of councillors in leading and protecting communities in the current crisis. These include the:

  • Postponement of local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections until 2021. No other elections, by-elections or referenda should be held, including by-elections for town and parish councils.
  • Power for the Secretary of State to make regulations changing the way local authority meetings are held. This may pave the way for councils to postpone meetings and take decisions remotely, that is without needing all decision-makers to be together in the same place. These changes will apply to all tiers of local government and associated committees and will include fire and rescue authorities.

Faith based organisations

The government has published new advice for safe funerals after discussions with faith leaders.  


Heritage

The National Lottery Heritage Fund has made £50million available for a Heritage Emergency Fund which will include:

  • A fund that organisations can access over the next three-six months as short-term funding to stabilise operations and manage unforeseen risks. Grants of between £3,000 – £50,000 will be available.
  • A select number of key strategic investments where heritage is identified as at greatest risk. This could include grant increases to funded projects that are currently underway.

In addition NLHG is enabling organisations already in receipt of grant funding to delay or change the way the projects are delivered. This can include changes to approved purposes, flexibility on costs within a project, early drawdown of grant payment, a relaxation of some conditions of the grant, and flexible use of contingency funding.

Historic England has launched a survey aimed at understanding the impact of the Coronavirus on the businesses and skills that underpin the heritage sector.  The survey will close at midnight Monday 13 April.


Volunteering

NCVO has created a coronavirus advice page on its Knowhow website for anyone managing or supporting volunteers during the pandemic.  These are the areas it covers:


Scotland

OSCR has issued some further information to Scottish charities about submitting annual information. It says that it is is currently not taking further action with respect to missed deadlines, although it would encourage all charities who are able to submit their documentation on time to do so. To help with this it will allow charities to submit accounts with typed signatures rather than ‘wet signatures’. When a charity has failed to submit its annual information on time, the Scottish Charity Register indicates this by means of a red line against the charity entry. This process is automated and OSCR is working to see what it can do to amend the Register to reflect the current position.

OSCR has published its newsletter for April; this is a round-up of recent news stories from the regulator and mainly relates to coronavirus.


Northern Ireland

CCNI is continuing to update its COVID-19 advice page. Topics covered now include:

  • Funding and finance
  • Safeguarding
  • Data Protection
  • Annual reporting
  • Charity registration
  • Changing a charity’s purposes Advice regarding charity meetings
  • Reporting serious incidents, including any impacts on your charity as a result of the pandemic
  • Accounting matters

The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action (NICVA) has published the results of its recent survey, which was aimed at gathering information on the impacts being felt by organisations due to the COVID-19 crisis and the support and guidance organisations are seeking.


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 April 7, 2020.