Public policy round-up: October 2018

There is so much to update you on that I will skip my usual introduction and go straight into it.

I will also refer you directly to Paul’s blog post if you want to know about the key announcements made in the Budget and what they mean for charities.

Charity Commission strategy 2018–2023

The Charity Commission announced its statement of strategic intent, setting out the regulator’s key objectives over the next five years.

The five strategic objectives are:

  • holding charities to account
  • dealing with wrongdoing and harm
  • informing public choice
  • giving charities the understanding and tools they need to succeed
  • keeping charity relevant for today’s world.

You can read a more detailed analysis of the strategy in my blog about what it says, and what it should say.

Loneliness strategy

Government launched its first loneliness strategy, following its recognition that loneliness is one of the greatest public health challenges our society currently faces.

The Strategy aims to create cross-government action in tackling loneliness, bringing together and taking forward existing and new initiatives such as:

  • funding to help charities and community groups expand their programmes which bring people together to benefit communities
  • funding to increase the number of community spaces available and transform underutilised areas where people can come together
  • building on the practice of social prescribing, so patients can be referred to a variety of activities that will improve their wellbeing and reduce the default reliance on medicine
  • incorporating loneliness into ongoing policy decisions with a view to a loneliness ‘policy test’ being included in departments’ plans
  • partnering with the Royal Mail on a new pilot scheme, which will see postal workers check up on lonely people as part of their usual delivery rounds.

Safeguarding

New safeguarding guidance

The Charity Commission has published updated safeguarding guidance to help charities and trustees better understand their legal duties around protecting people.

In a blog accompanying the publication of the guidance, the Commission says that the updated guidance does not signal a change in trustee duties. The guiding principle remains the same: that trustees must safeguard children and adults at risk, and protect anyone that comes into contact with their charity from harm. But it does form a single piece of guidance so that what trustees need to know is easily accessible in one place.

Report of safeguarding taskforce

The Commission has published the final report of its safeguarding taskforce, which was set up in February this year, following media revelations about safeguarding in charities.

The report highlights that:

  • there has been a significant increase in reporting of serious incidents relating to safeguarding since February 2018 and this initial increase has been sustained. This marked upturn is not to be viewed as a negative though: it comes as a direct consequence of the public and charity sector focus on safeguarding practices in charities, and on charities’ responses to incidents when they do occur
  • despite the increase, the Commission still has concerns about continued under-reporting of serious incidents in charities
  • many bulk/multiple reports did not contain the right level of details to give the Commission a full picture of the safeguarding incidents reported
  • reports of serious safeguarding incidents were not always made sufficiently quickly.

Despite the headlines focusing on the number of reports, the taskforce’s document includes some important messages for trustees.

  • Regular reporting is evidence of good practice in and of itself, it is part of what trustees need to do if acting responsibly to protect those at risk of harm and ensure public trust.
  • The Commission recognises that serious incidents may occur more frequently within certain charities due to their size, or the nature of their activities.

Looking ahead, the Commission is exploring the development of a new digital tool for reporting serious incidents to make it easier for charities to see what information is required. The Commission is also developing a checklist to sit alongside the reporting of serious incidents guidance to help inform trustees what key information is needed when reporting different types of incident.

New fund to strengthen safeguarding

The minister for sport and civil society Tracey Crouch announced a package of measures aimed at strengthening safeguarding in charities.

These include:

  • up to £2m investment in projects to raise awareness of safeguarding and improve incident handling
  • the development of digital tools that will provide simple and confidential ways for charities to report concerns and give better access to clear and consistent guidance on reporting and whistle-blowing
  • free training, with support from the Big Lottery Fund.

The implementation of these new measure will be overseen by a cross sector safeguarding programme group, of which we are members.

Safeguarding 2018 summit

On 18 October, the Department for International Development hosted a safeguarding summit to set out what actions government, international agencies, and charities delivering aid overseas will take to prevent sexual abuse and exploitation, and protect vulnerable people from harm.

In particular, UK aid charities made a number of important commitments to change safeguarding.

Despite the focus being on international aid charities, there are some important lessons for all charities to think about.

Reporting serious incidents

The Commission has updated its guidance on reporting serious incidents.

Key changes include:

  • a more detailed section on safeguarding incidents, which contains the broader definition of safeguarding that the Commission has been using in its casework in recent months (i.e. safeguarding incidents are not just those relating to children and vulnerable adults who are beneficiaries of the charity)
  • an updated examples table annexed to the guidance with additional examples, some of which reflect the broader scope of safeguarding
  • a new ‘What to report’ section that explains what to report, including when incidents have happened overseas
  • a new paragraph under ‘How to report’ about incidents occurring in more than one charity, including in federated structures, which explains that the incident should be reported by each of the charities involved. However, it also says that charities can agree for one of them to make the report on behalf of all of them if it makes it clear that it has the authority to do so and tells the Commission about the action that each of the charities are taking in response to the incident.

New whistleblowing guidance

The Charity Commission has published new guidance on reporting wrongdoing in a charity as an employee or volunteer.

The guidance sets out:

  • the types of events that should be reported
  • which other authorities should also be contacted
  • a link to other government whistleblowing guidance
  • how the process works for reports to the Commission
  • what the Commission will do with the information.

The Commission’s CC47 guidance – Complaints about charities has also been updated to reflect the new guidance.

No-deal Brexit

Earlier this week we held an event in partnership with UK in a Changing Europe to discuss what a no-deal Brexit would mean for charities.

Professor Simon Usherwood explained what the key issues for charities are likely to be in the event of no deal, and what they can do to prepare for this scenario.

If you weren’t able to attend or watch to live stream, here is a helpful summary:

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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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