All content on this page is correct as of July 3, 2020
The Charity Commission requires charities to report actual or alleged serious incidents.
Serious incident reports (SIRs) should be a prompt and open report to the Charity Commission which details what happened and the approach in which the charity is taking to deal with the serious incident.
What is a serious incident?
Serious incidences are defined in the Charity Commission SIR guidance as “an adverse event, whether actual or alleged, which results in or risks significant:
“Significant” is taken to mean significant in the context of your charity, so it will depend on your charity’s size, staff, operations, finances and/or reputation.
The trustees of a charity hold ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the charity makes a SIR when applicable, therefore it is in the trustees’ discretion and judgment as to whether they consider an actual or alleged incident a serious incident with significant risk, as described above.
Does coronavirus trigger a serious incident “significant” enough to file SIR?
More recently, on 3 June 2020, the Charity Commission issued supplementary guidance (found here), with an accompanying examples table, to help trustees in deciding whether they need to report an incident related to the pandemic. This supplementary guidance clarifies, for example, that it is the impact of any pandemic-related reduction of services or operations on the charity that is key in determining whether a SIR should be reported.
In practice, although there are some differences from the main guidance – for example, the usual thresholds for reporting a financial loss do not apply where the losses are related to the coronavirus crisis – the Charity Commission continues to expect trustees to exercise their own judgement as to what is ‘significant’ for a charity, with the effect that the pandemic may give rise to reportable incidents for many organisations.
We have set out below some example scenarios (some are taken from the latest Charity Commission guidance) under which a charity may choose to file a coronavirus-related SIR:
Serious incident to report: Harm to people who come into contact with your charity through its work
Example scenario: There is an outbreak of coronavirus, including suspected cases (rather than a single (suspected) case) amongst staff, volunteers, trustees and/or beneficiaries which lead to the charity being unable to continue its normal operations.
Serious incident to report: other significant financial loss
A charity has lost significant income due to the lockdown (e.g suspended operations or cancellation of fundraising events) which leads to one of the following specific impacts:
high likelihood of insolvency or permanent closure in the next 12 months
Serious incident to report: Incidents involving partners
Example scenario :
(a) A delivery partner of the charity has ceased to operate due to coronavirus which prevents the charity from providing services and assistance to its beneficiaries.
(b)The charity’s subsidiary trading company goes into liquidation due to reduced trading caused by coronavirus, and the liquidation has a material impact on the financial sustainability and future of the charity.
Serious incident to report: Other significant incidents
When to file an SIR
The Charity Commission recommends that both actual and alleged incidents are filed promptly. This means reporting as soon as possible after the incident happens or after the charity becomes aware of the incident.
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 July 3, 2020.