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Charities still under-reporting major incidents finds Commission’s safeguarding taskforce

Charities still under-reporting major incidents finds Commission’s safeguarding taskforce

The has voiced concerns that charities are still under-reporting serious incidents as it publishes the findings of its interim taskforce on .

According to the final report of the taskforce, published today (17 October) charities submitted 2,114 reports of serious incidents relating to safeguarding incidents or issues between 20 February and 30 September 2018. In comparison, the Commission received 1,580 serious incident reports in the whole of 2017-18, and 1,203 in 2016-17.

‘Significant and systematic under-reporting’

However, the Commission’s report finds that there is significant and systemic under-reporting of incidents by charities working at home and abroad, with only 1.5% of registered charities having submitted any kind of serious incident report since 2014, and 0.9% of charities having reported a safeguarding incident since 2014. It is concerned that under-reporting may be more prevalent in certain groups of charities than in others.

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy, Planning and Communications at the Charity Commission, said:

“Making a serious incident report to the Commission is not in itself an admission of wrongdoing or failure. Quite the reverse: it demonstrates that a charity is responding properly to incident or concern.

“So we welcome the increase in reporting by some charities, especially international aid charities that appear to have improved their reporting since February’s revelations. But we’re not convinced that we’re seeing everything we should be. Working with charities, we need to bring about a culture change on reporting to ensure charities are safe places, better able to make a difference to people’s lives.”

Key findings

The taskforce undertook a ‘deep dive’ of the regulator’s records relating to safeguarding concerns dating back to April 2014 to identify any potential failure in full and frank disclosure by charities, and to ensure charities and the Commission had taken appropriate follow-up actions to deal with the incident reported.

The taskforce found no historic cases giving rise to serious or urgent concerns about either the Commission’s handling at the time, or a charity’s response. It identified only one case where it was not clear from the records whether a potentially criminal matter had been reported to the police, and took action to ensure that this happened.

The regulator also undertook detailed analysis of safeguarding reports it received between 1 February and 31 May 2018 to better understand the nature of the incident being reported and the type of charity making the report.

This found that:

  • The top 5 types of charity that submitted reports during that time were: overseas aid / famine relief (29%), disability (12%), religious activities (12%), education /training (12%) and younger people (11%)
  • The majority of reports related to incidents of or concerns about potential harm to individuals, including but not limited to sexual abuse or harassment
  • In cases where an individual was identified as having allegedly been harmed, 47.5% related to a child, and 32% related to an adult (in the remainder the age of the individual could not be identified from the initial report).

Next steps for the Commission

Among the next steps for the Commission announced in the report are:

  • Conducting further analysis on the patterns of reporting types or groups of charities where under-reporting may be especially prevalent
  • Developing a digital tool for reporting serious incidents to help make it easier for charities to provide the information the Commission needs at the outset.
  • Creating checklists to sit alongside its existing guidance to help inform trustees about the key information required in any serious incident report. These checklists will be available in the next few weeks.
  • Further reviewing its guidance on reporting serious incidents to ensure it is clear and user friendly

The Commission has also announced that it has now updated its guidance to charities on reporting serious incidents, clarifying a number of areas including on when and how to report potential criminal offences that may have taken place abroad.



Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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