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Charity Commission Whistleblowing - Charity Commission Whistleblowing
Last updated October 2019

Whistleblowing disclosures more than double

The number of whistleblowing disclosures made to the Charity Commission has more than doubled in the past two years, the latest figures show.

The commission received 185 whistleblowing reports in the year to 31 March, up from 88 in 2016/17 and an 83.2% rise on the 2017/18 figure, a report from the regulator shows.

Concerns about safeguarding were the most commonly reported issues, accounting for 89 of the disclosures, compared with 24 the year before.

This rise might have been caused by people being more willing to come forward with safeguarding concerns in the wake of the safeguarding scandals last year, the commission said. Safeguarding, governance and concerns about money laundering and fraud have been the most commonly reported issues over the past five years, the commission's report says.

But it adds: "This is the first time in the last five years that safeguarding has been the most frequent type of issue reported to us. While we cannot be certain, this increase is likely to have been influenced by the high-profile nature of safeguarding incidents emerging from the charity sector this year, which may have encouraged others to come forward with concerns."

The commission has also widened its definition of whistleblowing during the reporting period to include volunteers, although volunteers accounted for 12 of the reports, while employees and ex-employees accounted for 167 of them.

The commission’s report says: "We have a regulatory interest in encouraging people on the inside of charity to report their serious concerns to us so that we are better able to detect problems in charities. For this reason, during the year we began to treat charity volunteers as well as charity workers as whistleblowers, where appropriate."

The report says that although volunteers do not have any of the statutory protections workers have if they report serious concerns, the commission recognises that in other respects they face many of the personal challenges and risks experienced by workers and therefore need the same sort of engagement.

A fifth, or 37, of the reports were connected to education and training charities, while 30 were from charities dealing with disabilities. The commission said 85 of those 181 cases were closed last year and most were dealt with by offering advice, while in nine cases stronger corrective advice or a plan were offered. In two cases charities were removed from the register as a result.

The commission completed a review of its approach to whistleblowing during the year. It said it had begun piloting aspects of this new approach and completed the rest of the implementation in June. As well as including volunteers, the report said the new approach also included making the process clearer, revising the guidance, launching a whistleblowing helpline and training commission staff to deal with whistleblowers.

Since April, the commission has also pledged to phone every whistleblower directly to discuss concerns, if the person wants to, and provide a direct point of contact should they wish to speak to the commission further.

Read: Third Sector - Whistleblowing disclosures to the commission have more than doubled over past two years