The recent reports of abuses connected to some charities working in the international aid sector are deeply troubling and as a regulator we take such matters extremely seriously.
There are two key points that we would like to remind charities of in light of the reports.
Due to the importance of them both, we are asking charity trustees to make sure that these topics are Agenda Items at the next meeting.
Safeguarding - Keeping vulnerable beneficiaries, volunteers and staff safe
The public is right to expect the highest standards of governance from charity trustees – charity law also requires it. We work very closely with Police Scotland and the justice system where we consider there is any criminal activity or risk to vulnerable people. Charities working with vulnerable beneficiaries or volunteers need a heightened focus on possible abuses of power that might lead to bullying, harassment, or sexual misconduct.
The legal duty of all charity trustees is to act in the best interests of their charity and, in particular, to act with due care and diligence. For all charities, this means trustees should make sure that they create a safe environment for staff, beneficiaries and volunteers. Charities should have the appropriate policies, procedures and practices in place to make sure that everyone is kept safe. It is important to develop a culture that enables anyone to report concerns, whilst making sure that those concerns are dealt with appropriately and in a sensitive manner. They should also ensure that everyone in the organisation understands these policies and that they are reviewed and kept up to date as organisations grow and change.
Remember, charity trustees are the ones who are ultimately accountable when something goes wrong in a charity, and it is up to them to take appropriate action when it is required. If you are a charity trustee, please review your safeguarding polices – and if they are not comprehensive enough, work with your fellow trustees to get them where they need to be as soon as possible.
Here are some key actions for charity trustees to take:
Later this year, we will be publishing new guidance on safeguarding. If there is anything you would like to see us cover in this guidance, please email email@example.com and we will consider your suggestions.
When problems occur, it is important for trustees to address them vigorously and transparently – we have a Notifiable Events system which should be used in circumstances like this.
This system was started in April 2016 and it gives us an opportunity to provide guidance to charities when serious incidents occur.
A Notifiable Event could be:
There is no legal requirement to report a Notifiable Event. However, it is an important way for charities to reassure us, and other interested parties, that they are on top of the issues they are facing. Ultimately, we may become concerned if there has been a matter that has not been reported to us; especially if it goes on to have a negative impact on the individual charity or the wider charity sector.
For more information, please read the news item we published in November 2017 encouraging charities to report significant incidents when they occur.