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OSCR launches new Inquiry Policy

01 Jun 2023

Today OSCR launches its new Inquiry Policy, which updates how we will handle concerns raised about charities in Scotland. In doing so, we want to ensure that people who have concerns can raise their issue quickly with the correct authority, without being passed pillar to post.

We then want to prioritise our own resources more effectively to deal with the most important issues in charities as quickly as possible. Finally, we want to only contact busy charity trustees about concerns when we really need to.

Why is a new Inquiry Policy needed?

Between April 2022 and March 2023, OSCR received a total of 634 concerns from members of the public or external organisations about charities registered in Scotland. Around 65% of these concerns were about matters that OSCR could not deal with because they fall outside what the law says we can do.

That’s why we need to make sure that people and organisations dealing with charities, charity trustees and everyone else involved have better information about:

  • what OSCR will act on
  • what is for other agencies and regulators to look at
  • what issues are for charity trustees to deal with

How will this improve how OSCR deals with concerns?

We know that when someone takes the time and trouble to contact us with their concerns about a charity, they may be frustrated and disappointed if we do not take this issue forward. Even where we can signpost issues to another organisation or to the trustees of the charity concerned there is a loss of time and effort for the person raising the concern. With this in mind, our new Inquiry Policy clarifies the matters we act on and the steps that we will take after we receive a concern. We’ve also updated the form on our website that people must use to raise any concerns so that we can filter out issues which are not for OSCR, and signpost people towards the correct authority or a better source of help and advice.  

For example, a lot of people come to OSCR with concerns about the standard of services that charities provide or about decisions that charities have made without having contacted the charity or its trustees first. The law says that charity trustees are the people in management and control of a charity, so we would always expect these issues to be raised with them first.

In other situations, the services that charities provide are regulated by other organisations, not OSCR. Our new policy and the updated concerns form make clear when issues should be taken up with regulators like the Care Inspectorate or the Scottish Housing Regulator.

We also want to enable people with concerns to help OSCR, by giving us the information we need to deal with issues up front. That way we can shorten the time it takes to make decisions. So, the form asks more specific questions about particular types of issue and allows users to send us attachments with further evidence.

Finally, we have also changed our policy to make it clearer to everyone involved what they can expect from this process. We value and depend on the intelligence we gain from concerns that people raise with us. However, like most organisations, our resources are under pressure, and we need to focus them on moving our inquiries forward and taking action where we need to – and doing that more quickly than we have in the past. To help us do that, we will not provide updates on our activities to people who have raised concerns with us. 

By reducing the number of concerns that we receive outside of our responsibilities, and reducing the time it takes to establish the facts of each matter, we can use our resources to increase the number of reports that we publish on inquiries. We want to make clear why and when we have taken action, what the learning points are for other charities, and what our findings are in cases where there is a strong public interest.

We want our new inquiry policy and the process for raising concerns to be as helpful as possible for all involved. We have developed them with input from stakeholders and in the light of our experience in risk assessing concerns and undertaking inquiries over the last few years. We monitor the impact of all the changes we are making and welcome feedback on them so that we can continue to improve what we do.

You can read our new Inquiry Policy here, and our updated form to report concerns about a charity in Scotland can be found here.

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