To prevent problems from happening, reoccurring or affecting public confidence in the charity sector, from 1st April 2016 the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) will ask charities who have, or have had, a serious problem to notify them. OSCR has brought in this new guidance in order to “encourage charities to deal with issues quickly and effectively, to prevent them from becoming a serious problem for the health of the charity and, potentially, for the wider charity sector.”
What OSCR means by a serious, or as they define it, “notifiable” event depends on the size, structure and nature of the charity, however ultimately it’s the responsibility of the trustees to decide whether or not a “notifiable event” has occurred and therefore if it should be officially reported.
What are “notifiable events”?
OSCR has given which examples focus on events that have significant impact on the charity, as follows:
- Fraud and theft;
- Substantial financial loss;
- Incidents of abuse or mistreatment of vulnerable beneficiaries;
- Insufficient charity trustees to make a legal decision;
- The charity has been subject to a criminal investigation or an investigation by another regulator or agency; sanctions have been imposed, or concerns raised by another regulator or agency;
- Significant sums of money or other property have been donated to the charity from an unknown or unverified source;
- Suspicions that the charity and/ or its assets are being used to fund criminal activity (including terrorism);
- A charity trustee is acting whilst disqualified
What to do if your charity has a “notifiable report”?
Once a notifiable event has been identified by trustees OSCR should be informed by email as soon as possible via firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details:
- What the event is and how it has (or may have) a serious impact on the charity;
- What action (if any) has already been taken by the trustees;
- What further plans the charity trustees have in place to deal with the event;
- What plans the charity trustees have in place to stop similar events happening in the future.
One point to note – if a charity is registered with the Scottish Housing Regulator or the Charity Commission for England and Wales, then OSCR does not need to receive a report. However for charities registered with any other regulator, OSCR will need a “notifiable event” report.
In addition, criminal events should still be notified to the police regardless. Recent high profile charity failures have highlighted more than ever the importance of good governance. Although there is no legal requirement to report an event to OSCR, this step emphasises the responsibilities and accountability of trustees in running a charity. The Regulators’ focus is to help the charity trustees be responsible and accountable for the running of a charity in order to make sure lessons are learnt for other organisations in the sector and improve public confidence.