Charity policy round-up: June 2020

Charity Commission guidance on reporting serious incidents during covid-19

The Charity Commission has published additional guidance on reporting serious incidents during covid-19.

This does not replace the main guidance on serious incident reporting, which is still the main resource to help trustees to decide whether an incident should be reported.

It’s also worth noting that:

  • the thresholds of £25,000 and 20% of income, which are used in the main guidance on serious incident reporting to indicate when non-criminal financial losses should be reported, are not applicable to losses that relate to the pandemic.
  • the Commission would only expect financial losses/difficulties related to the pandemic to be reported where this will result in the charity being:
    • unable to deliver vital services to at risk beneficiaries and/or
    • insolvent and/or forced to close permanently or
    • highly likely to be insolvent and/or forced to close permanently within the next 12 months.

The guidance includes a supplementary examples table to help trustees decide whether to report an incident related to the pandemic.

Charity Commission research into public trust

The Charity Commission has published Regulating in the public interest, a report which draws together the main findings of various research studies that the regulator has conducted among the public and charity trustees over the last two years.

One of the main findings is that, while there are distinct groups within public opinion based on different perspectives, certain expectations about charities transcend those differences. Those expectations are that:

  • a high proportion of charities’ money is used for charitable activity
  • charities are making the impact they promise to make
  • the way they go about making that impact is consistent with the spirit of ‘charity’
  • all charities show a collective responsibility in adhering to the above.

Overall, the report concludes that public trust and confidence levels have increased since 2018, but have not yet returned to pre-2014 levels.

Gift Aid emergency relief package

NCVO is part of a coalition of sector bodies calling on the government to temporarily boost the level of Gift Aid claimed on donations.

Read more details about our proposals for a Gift Aid Emergency Relief package.

New guidance to support the return to fundraising

The Fundraising Regulator and Chartered Institute of Fundraising have published two pieces of guidance to support charitable organisations to return to fundraising activities in line with social distancing requirements, as restrictions are eased across the UK.

The guidance covers the over-arching principles which should be applied to all fundraising methods, and specific advice on public fundraising (including street, door-to-door and private site fundraising).

This guidance has been prepared in consultation with Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

Charity Commission statutory inquiry report into the RNIB

The Charity Commission has published its report following the statutory inquiry into the RNIB.

The publication of the report was accompanied by a regulatory alert to charities with the following profile.

  • Income over £9m
  • Governed by a board of trustees and run by a separate group of executives
  • A service-providing charity either with front-line staff directly serving and interacting with beneficiaries or which provides amenities or facilities to the public

However the risks identified in the alert and the recommendations are also a useful framework for other charities to check that their governance arrangements are robust and address key risks. So I have written a blog post on the wider lessons for all trustees, which I hope is helpful.

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 has now come into force. The new Act is intended to provide organisations with breathing space to continue to trade – and potentially avoid insolvency due to the unprecedented financial pressures caused by the coronavirus crisis. These provisions could be a great help to organisations which are facing serious financial hardship in the midst of the crisis. The Act also introduces measures which benefit a much wider range of organisations by relaxing governance provisions for many organisations that are grappling with legal requirements relating to members’ meetings and social distancing practices.

Read this detailed briefing about the Act by Bates Wells.

House of Lords select committee on public services

The House of Lords select committee on public services has carried out an inquiry on whether covid-19 is an opportunity for public service reform.

The inquiry is examining what the experience of coronavirus can say about the future role, priorities and shape of public services. There is a question relating specifically to the role of the voluntary sector in providing public services.

Read more about the inquiry and the lessons we have identified from coronavirus.

Committee on standards in public life – new review into the regulation of elections

The Committee on standards in public life has announced a review of the regulation of elections.

The review will focus on an important aspect of the Electoral Commission’s role: the regulation of donations and campaign expenditure by political parties and non-party campaigners under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. It will also consider how this interacts with the separate regime under the Representation of People Act 1983 for the regulation of candidate expenditure.

The review will look at what the regulation of election finance should achieve and how it is regulated. The committee intends to look at electoral regulation from first principles – what really matters in this area? What values and principles should guide regulation of finance during elections?

The Committee has opened a public consultation, which will run until 31 July 2020.

A report with recommendations will be published by June 2021.

Stronger Foundations fourth report – Transparency and engagement

ACF’s Stronger Foundations initiative aims to identify and help foundations pursue excellent practice. The project has involved six working groups looking at six aspects of foundation practice over the course of a year. As each group concludes, it will be publishing a report on what the pillars of a ‘stronger foundation’ are in each area.

The latest report Transparency and Engagement: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice looks at how foundations can increase their ambition and effectiveness through greater transparency and engagement.

It sets out five characteristics of excellent foundation practice, which include considering transparency across all the foundation’s activities, enabling an internal culture of transparency and engagement, and engaging external audiences including grant applicants and other foundations.

New Locality report: We were built for this

Locality have launched a new report We were built for this, which showcases the inspiring ways community organisations have responded to the coronavirus crisis.

The report highlights that:

  • existing social infrastructure has been vital to the crisis response
  • well-functioning local systems have emerged in the heat of the crisis
  • the role of community organisations as ‘cogs of connection’ has been strengthened
  • community organisations have adapted at pace – but need support to meet the challenges of the future.

The report also sets out three practical ways the government can create the conditions for community power to flourish at a local level and make this the foundation of a fairer society after the crisis.

  • Support a community-powered economic recovery
  • Create collaborative public services that unlock community power
  • Turn community spirit into community power

Institute for Government new insourcing report

The Institute for Government has published a new report on when and how government should bring services back in-house.

The report identifies four circumstances in which the government should consider returning a service to the public sector.

  • An unhealthy or uncompetitive market
  • The need for flexibility to make changes to the service
  • A lack of government commercial skills to manage an outsourced contract successfully
  • A need to improve the service by integrating it with another

Diversity in the charity sector

Together with Voice4Change England, ACEVO has released Home Truths: Undoing racism and delivering real diversity in the charity sector.

Home Truths is the final report in the year-long Making Diversity Count project.

NCVO has shared its initial response to the report through members of its equity, diversity and inclusion group, and through members of its BAME network.

 

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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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