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Our role as a regulator

Published: 22/01/2020
Updated: 30/01/2020


Our role as regulator includes encouraging charities to comply with the Charities and Trustees Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. We provide guidance to support charity trustees in their role. We recognise that most charities are doing a good job providing public benefit and the number of charities we have concerns about in any given year is small.

We act in the interest of the public as a whole and not on behalf of individuals or groups.

We assess information about charities, including concerns raised with us, and consider it carefully in line with our risk framework.

Where we decide it is appropriate to look into a concern in more detail we will do so. In cases where we decide not to take action, we hold the information on file for future consideration if necessary. These are decisions for OSCR to take and are not subject to appeal.

Where do concerns come from?

OSCR receives concerns from many different sources. We apply the same risk assessment process to all concerns.

Sources of concerns include:

  • Members of the public, service users and volunteers
    A member of the public or someone involved with a charity who has a concern can raise this with using the online concern form via our website
  • Notifiable events
    Charity trustees often collectively become aware of a situation or event that means there is a risk to the charity, for example reputational damage or financial harm. Where charity trustees are aware of such a situation and are working to address this, they can notify OSCR through the submission of a notifiable event.
  • Charity employees - whistleblowing
    If a charity employee has a concern about the charity that they work for and they do not feel it is being dealt with appropriately, they can raise this concern with us. This is commonly referred to as ‘Whistleblowing’ under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA). Whistleblowing guidance and an online form to submit this kind of concern is available through our website.
  • Funders
    Funders may become aware of a concern, perhaps due to a lack of reporting on use of allocated funds, and advise OSCR of the situation.
  • Auditors and Independent Examiners
    Auditors and Independent Examiners have a duty to report matters of material significance such as dishonesty including the misuse or theft of a charity’s funds, fraud, money laundering or a failure on internal governance to OSCR. Some matters must be reported, other matters are at the discretion of Auditors or Independent Examiners.
  • Media
    OSCR may become aware of a potential concern through the media or other publicly available information and determine that further inquiry is required.
  • OSCR concerns identified through targeted and routine monitoring
    Information in annual reports or accounts may prompt OSCR to determine that further action is required.

How we assess risk to charities

Being a targeted regulator means making sure that we focus our energy and resources on the issues and charities that are most likely to undermine public trust and confidence.

Our risk framework underpins how we consider information about charities and the actions we take.

When we receive a concern about a charity we risk assess it. This risk assessment process allows us to consider the concern more widely alongside other relevant information. We apply the same process to information from other sources.

We consider:

  • whether or not the issues relate to risks in our risk framework
  • the credibility of the evidence available
  • the level of threat to the charity, its assets or the people who benefit from it.

The outcome of the risk assessment helps us to decide what we do next. We operate in accordance with our duties as a regulator, which include acting independently, fairly and proportionately, and targeting our action where it is needed – see our Corporate Plan & Values.

We aim to encourage charities to comply with charity law and to support them by giving guidance and making recommendations or signposting them to other sources of help. However, we will take regulatory action where we identify a need to do so.