Bates Wells Briefing for Charities & Social Enterprises

Your weekly round up of news and updates from across the sector.

Bates Wells highlights

Today’s Briefing covers the period from 21st December 2020 to 8th Jan 2021.


At a glance

Both the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator have published updates to their coronavirus guidance. 

The Government has announced plans to expand the dormant assets scheme to include proceeds of dormant life insurance and retirement income policies and dormant shares.

The Financial Reporting Council has published a policy statement on climate-related disclosures by companies. 


Coronavirus – latest government guidance

The guidance for what you can and cannot do in Tier 5 can be found here.  Content relevant to charities includes:

  • Providing voluntary or charitable services is recognised as a “reasonable excuse” to leave home.  (Not sure if this is new but the guidance says the government plans to “put into law” that you must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse.)
  • You can meet in larger groups if you are providing voluntary or charitable services and it is unreasonable to do so from home.
  • Support groups that have to be delivered in person can continue with up to 15 participants where formally organised to provide mutual aid, therapy or any other form of support – but they must take place at a premises other than a private home.

Coronavirus – Government funding

Early in January Rishi Sunak announced:

  • one-off grants for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses which have had to close:
    • £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
    • £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
    • £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000
  • £594 million discretionary fund to support other “impacted businesses”
  • £1.1 billion further discretionary grant funding for Local Authorities
  • Local Restriction Support Grants worth up to £3,000 a month

Charity Finance Group has said it is urgently seeking clarification on the state aid status of the grants.

Extra support to help protect rough sleepers from the effects of COVID-19 has been announced by the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick.  Backed by an additional £10 million in funding, all councils in England are being asked to redouble their efforts to help accommodate all those currently sleeping rough and ensure they are swiftly registered with a GP, where they are not already.  Councils will also be asked to reach out again to those who have previously refused help, given rising infection rates and the colder winter months.

The Government has announced a £7.5 million funding package to help tackle loneliness over the winter period.  The support will target sectors that bring people and communities together including the arts, libraries, charities and radio.  The grants will be administered via Arts Council England, the Government’s Loneliness Fund and two radio funds. 

The Government has announced that dormant assets across the insurance and pensions, investment, wealth management, and securities sectors are set to be unlocked, “with the potential for more than £800 million to be made available to support the UK as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic”.  Currently, the scheme accepts only dormant bank and building society accounts.  Assets proposed to be within the scope of the expansion include:

  • Proceeds of dormant life insurance and retirement income policies
  • Proceeds of dormant shares or units in collective investments
  • Dormant investment asset distributions and proceeds
  • Proceeds of, or distributions from, dormant shares
  • Unclaimed proceeds from corporate actions

The government intends to legislate for the scheme expansion.


Coronavirus – Lockdown restrictions and Local authority directions

The Department of Health and Social Care has published three new templates for local authorities to use when issuing directions in relation to premises, planned events and open spaces under Coronavirus regulations.  It may be useful to refer to these if clients want to understand or challenge the basis on which local authorities are (or should be) issuing directions in relation to Covid and the lockdown. Use of the template directions is optional and local authorities remain responsible for ensuring that the legal conditions for making a direction under the regulations are met and that they have gathered sufficient evidence to support a direction being made.


Coronavirus – sector regulators

The charity meetings section of the Charity Commission’s coronavirus guidance has been updated to reflect current government guidance about lockdown restrictions in England and Wales.  The commission has also inserted the a new section on mergers and collaborative working.
 
The Fundraising Regulator and Chartered Institute of Fundraising have issued short guidance advising that any charity fundraising which involves contact with members of the public should cease where the highest levels of restrictions apply (for example, the closure of non-essential shops, gyms, and schools).  


Coronavirus – Volunteering

Before Christmas, the government updated its guidance about volunteering during the pandemic.  But this of course predates the move into Tier 5.
 
Also predating Tier 5, NAVCA produced this useful flowchart


Coronavirus – Impact on the sector

harity Finance Group reports that new research from Pro Bono Economics’ Covid Charity Tracker, produced in partnership with CFG and the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, shows widespread innovation and invention through the charity sector as a result of Covid-19. That tide of constructive, creative change is expected to carry through and even build into 2021.  Other key points from the research include:

  • seven in 10 charities want to make more services digital and deliver new services remotely over the next 12 months.
  • Over half (54%) want to increase their use of technology and digital within their back office functions.
  • 50% of charities are looking to collaborate more with others in their sector (compared to 30% in August last year).

Coronavirus – extension to the ban on bailiff evictions

The government has announced an extension to the ban on bailiff evictions for at least 6 weeks “for all but the most egregious cases” – until at least 21 February – with measures kept under review.


Brexit

Bates Wells’ Lindsay Draffan explains here about the UK’s commitment to a new subsidy control regime to replace the EU state aid regime.  All organisations which might give or receive subsidies from UK Government funds – including central and local government, charities, not-for-profits and social enterprises – should be aware of the new subsidy control regime and what it means for them. 


Promotion of journalism as a charitable object

 In December 2020 the House of Lords published the report from its inquiry – “The Future of UK Journalism”.  The report refers several times to the submission by Bates Wells partner Lawrence Simanowitz who made the case for charitable recognition being given to public benefit journalism.   At paragraph 309 of its report, the inquiry supported this recommendation. 


Governance

On 26th Jan, NPC is running a free seminar for trustees “Harnessing digital technology through and beyond Covid-19”.  More details and how to book here


Climate change

The Financial Reporting Council has published a policy statement on climate-related disclosures by companies.   Although some of the technical content is only directly relevant to commercial companies with a UK premium listing, the FRC states the general policy statement which will be of interest to a broad range of other stakeholders, including: accountants and auditors, consumer groups, trade bodies and civil society groups, policy-makers and regulatory bodies.


Data protection

Criminal prosecution

An employee of the RAC, who transferred personal data to an accident claims management firm without authorisation has been sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.  The recipient of the data also received the same sentence.  Both were also each ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work and contribute £1,000 costs.  And a Confiscation Order, under the Proceeds of Crimes Act, to recover benefit obtained as a result of the offending has been given by the Court in which they must pay benefit figures of £25,000 and £15,000 respectively. Both will face three months’ imprisonment if the benefit figures are not paid within three months.  The prosecution was brought by the Information Commissioner’s Office.


Equality

In December, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss, set out the Government’s new approach to tackling inequality across the UK.   It includes that the government “will not limit our fight for fairness to the nine protected characteristics laid out in the 2010 Equality Act, which include sex, race and gender reassignment.  While it is true people in these groups suffer discrimination, the focus on protected characteristics has led to a narrowing of the equality debate that overlooks socio-economic status and geographic inequality.  This means some issues – particularly those facing white working-class children – are neglected.  This project will broaden the drive for equality and get to the heart of the barriers people face. It will report its initial findings in the summer.”

The Cabinet Office, on behalf of the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, is seeking fourteen new Disability and Access Ambassadors to “help to ensure businesses are doing all they can to support their disabled customers”.


Fundraising

Fundraising Regulator

The FR has appointed Charlotte Urwin as its new Head of Policy. She has a background in both charity sector and regulatory policy work.

The FR’s annual event will take place virtually on 8 February 2021.  Visit the event webpage for more details. 


Grant funding

The Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), Scottish Grantmakers (SGM), and Philanthropy Ireland, have jointly published findings of their Survey of Charitable Funders’ Views of Accounts prepared under the Charities SORP.  The survey provides a detailed insight into the ways that charitable foundations use SORP accounts submitted by applicants to support their funding decisions. Responses came from a broad range of grantmakers funding to recipient charities of all sizes across all four UK and Ireland charity jurisdictions: England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

In this blog, NPC’s Principal for effective philanthropy, Clare Wilkins, looks at rethinking grant-making.


Education

The Department for Education has:

  • Announced that schools will remain closed after the Christmas holidays in light of the new national lockdown and that GCSE and A Level examinations will not take place in summer 2021 as expected. Student’s grades will be teacher-assessed, although precise details are still awaited. It was also announced that schools will be expected to give a set number of hours of remote education, with Ofsted inspecting schools where there is a concern that this isn’t happening.
  • Announced the establishment of a new Institute of Teaching, set to launch in September 2022.
  • Announced the establishment of the ‘Turing Scheme’, a scheme for students to study and work abroad which will replace the UK’s involvement in the Erasmus scheme which has come to an end due to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.

As millions of children remote learning suffer bad connections, internet providers have to offer free data – The Independent reports on internet providers’ offer of free internet data to school children who struggle to access reliable internet data.


Social enterprise news 

£1m windfall to support England’s refugee and migrant entrepreneurs  Pioneers Post reports on ACH – a social enterprise specialising in refugee integration and employment services – receiving £1m funding for The Effective Digital Entrepreneurship and Business Support project, which aims to help 500 existing businesses or pre-start entrepreneurs who are refugees or migrants.


Social impact investing news

Charities paid £686m in investment fees last year – Civil Society Media reports on its research by Tribe Impact Capital, which shows that charities paid £686m in investment management and advice fees in the past year, and notes some concerns about fees transparency.


International development

The Foreign Secretary has announced an extra £47 million of aid to immediately provide food, nutrition, water and shelter for vulnerable families across the Sahel, Syria, South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Mozambique. The UK is also lobbying international donors to provide more funding and working to ensure conflict parties allow humanitarian access for aid workers and ensure the protection of civilians.


Public procurement

In Jan, Feb and March DCMS is running seminars for the charity and social enterprise sector “Winning Central Government Contracts and the New Social Value Model”.  See here for dates and further details.


Scotland

Following on from the charity law consultation in 2019 which sought views on potential improvements to the charity regulation framework in Scotland, the Scottish Government have launched a survey to develop and refine the proposals. Further details can be found on OSCR’s website

OSCR has published an inquiry report update – A judicial factor has been appointed to manage the affairs of Wick Academy Development Fund (SC032787) a charity with recreational purposes in Wick and its environs.


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 January 18, 2021.