Public policy round-up: February 2018


Oxfam, international aid and sexual harassment scandals dominate the headlines

February may be the shortest month of the year, but it’s punched above its weight when it comes to news coverage about the sector, with almost every day headlines about the behaviour of some Oxfam workers in Haiti in 2011, and the scandal that has ensued.

The Charity Commission has now opened a statutory inquiry into Oxfam and is working with the Department for International Development, which will be calling in key international aid charities to a summit on safeguarding, with the aim of agreeing a set of actions to strengthen safeguarding processes and mechanisms.

The Commission is also conducting a short survey to gather feedback on how it can improve its regulatory advice and guidance to better support charities working internationally – particularly those operating in high risk areas or carrying out activities which pose higher risks.

However, the implications of what has been revealed are not limited to international aid charities: safeguarding and strong staffing and recruitment processes are relevant to all charities, both international and domestic, large and small.

So we have spent most of this month thinking about what lessons can be learnt from what has happened, understanding what went wrong so we can makes things right.

If you haven’t already, I would urge you to read Karl’s blogs on ‘Oxfam and Haiti: Next Steps for Charities’:

And the Charity Commission has announced a second summit for charities and umbrella bodies working in the UK, to be co-chaired by the Minister for Civil Society, Tracey Crouch MP.

In the meantime…


Civil Society Strategy

At the end of last year Tracey Crouch, the minister for civil society, announced that there would be a new civil society strategy aimed at improving how government and public bodies interact with the charity sector.

The minister has now launched a 12-week consultation with a public call for evidence to inform the new civil society strategy.

At NCVO we will be focusing a lot of our work over the following months to engage with our members and inform the strategy, so watch this space and please do get in touch if you want to be involved (you can either email me, tweet me or comment below).

Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into European Social Funds

We have given evidence to the Committee’s inquiry into the future of the European Social Fund.

Our priority is to ensure there is a replacement programme to ESF in place after Brexit. This was an opportunity for us to highlight the positive employment and skills outcomes that have been generated under ESF, and to set out our proposals on how a future fund should be designed and delivered.

You can watch the session on Parliament TV or you can read our full proposals for a successor to the ESF (PDF, 266KB).

New guidance for charities connected to non-charities

The Commission is consulting on draft guidance for charities on their relationships with connected non-charitable organisations.

The guidance is likely to be of particular relevance to:

  • charities and their trading subsidiaries
  • corporate foundations
  • charities that operate within international federations
  • dual structure campaigning charities
  • social enterprise structures which include both a charity and non-charity.

The guidance is subject to a three month consultation period, ending on 15 May. NCVO will be responding so if you would like to share your views, please comment below or email my colleague Douglas Dowell.

Automatic Disqualification Rules: Waiver process

The Commission has published the application form for a waiver of automatic disqualification as a trustee or senior manager of a charity.

Charity Commission publications

The Commission has published an updated regulatory and risk framework.

The updated document explains the Commission’s approach to risk-led regulation and sets out how it prioritises both reactive and its proactive engagement with charities, including the development of policy and guidance aimed at enabling charity trustees to run their charity effectively.

The priority regulatory risks that have been identified are:

  • fraud and financial abuse
  • safeguarding
  • terrorism and extremism
  • public trust and confidence.

It’s worth looking at Annex A (PDF, 241KB) to see the examples of potential risk indicators.

The Commission has also published its annual compliance report Tackling Abuse and Mismanagement.

Review of inheritance tax

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has written to the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) to ask they carry out a review into inheritance tax (IHT).

The Chancellor suggests the review should focus on the technical and administrative issues within IHT, the practical issues around routine estate planning and disclosure, and how the current gifts rules interact with the wider IHT system.

Given the importance of IHT for charitable giving in legacies, we and the Institute of Fundraising have written to the head of OTS highlighting how changes could have an impact on legacy gifts.

Full-Time Social Action review

Steve Holiday, the chair of the Full-Time Social Action review, has reported his recommendations to government (PDF, 4.7MB). Key findings include that no new legal status is needed for full-time volunteering, and that access to volunteering can be widened through a range of actions that don’t require legislative change.

Dormant Assets Commission

The government has published its response to the Commission on Dormant Assets’ report.

The response however does not set out any details with regards to a consultation on how the money should be spent, and mentions instead plans to undertake a preliminary assessment of the legislative amendments required to enable an expanded dormant assets scheme.

New Fundraising Code consultations

The Fundraising Regulator has launched its latest consultation which is in two parts:

  • The first two parts (A and B) invite feedback on specific issues raised by the sector in relation to complaints handling and the TPS Assured Certification. The deadline for response on these is 28 February 2018.
  • Part C proposes to introduce a new section to the Code for online fundraising platforms and aims to ensure that these platforms provide adequate and clear good practice guidance to individuals setting up a fundraising page on their sites. It also aims to ensure relevant platforms follow the legal requirements set out within the recently introduced Payment Services Regulation 2017. The deadline for response on fundraising platforms is 14 March 2018.

GDPR guidance

The Fundraising Regulator and the Institute of Fundraising have released joint guidance on GDPR, to provide clear and practical answers to the questions that charities have been asking.

The guidance has been reviewed and co-badged by the Information Commissioner’s Office, and is supported by regulators and membership bodies across the UK, including NCVO.

Volunteers and the law

NCVO, together with the support of Bates Wells Braithwaite, has released updated guidance on volunteers and the law.

The purpose of the guidance is to help organisations understand their legal rights and obligations when managing volunteers: it covers a range of important issues we get asked about all the time, such as employment rights, DBS checks, and data protection.

Amendments to the SORP

The Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator are inviting comments on amendments to the Charities Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) following changes in UK-Irish accounting standards.

A detailed explanation of what the changes are and why they are necessary is on the dedicated SORP site.

The consultation will close on 4 April 2018.







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Elizabeth Chamberlain Elizabeth is head of policy and public services at NCVO. She has been part of the policy team since 2008, as the expert on charity law and regulation. Her policy interests also include charity campaigning, the sector’s independence, transparency, and accountability.

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