The Essential Trustee - Mid-year charity news round-up: key recent changes for charities


26 July 2019

As we approach the summer holiday season, this article reminds charity trustees and senior managers within charities of some of key recent changes within the charities sector.

Charity Commission launches whistleblowing advice line

A new advice line specifically for charity whistleblowers opened on 3 June 2019. The service was set up with funding received from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and is operated independently by the specialist whistleblowing charity, Protect.

The service provides free and confidential advice to charity workers and volunteers to help them decide what to do about raising a serious concern about their charity, including whether and how to raise their concerns with the Charity Commission. The Commission will make a record of the risk and investigate those that pose the highest risk.

The Commission will investigate how charities are run, but will not investigate any crimes themselves (which will need to be reported to the relevant authorities, such as the police or HMRC). Issues that can be reported to the Commission include those that could seriously harm the people a charity helps, its staff or volunteers, assets or reputation.

The Commission’s guidance for workers and volunteers on how to report serious wrongdoings at a charity can be found here.

HMCTS notifies charities of interim arrangements for legacy notification services 

HM Courts & Tribunal Services (HMCTS) published an open letter on 4 July 2019 to charities to announce the interim arrangements that will be put in place to ensure participating charities continue to receive notifications of bequests in wills when HMCTS’ existing contractual arrangements with Smee & Ford cease at the end of July 2019.

The letter follows HMCTS’ announcement in January 2019 that it would introduce a new system to alert charities when they are left legacies in wills, replacing Smee & Ford’s paid for notification service (see our previous article on how this could affect charities).

The changes came into force on 22 July 2019, and the new arrangements will operate for at least 12 months. To continue the services to charities, a number of fees have been amended, including a significant reduction in probate copy fees. Smee & Ford has informed HMCTS that it will be communicating with existing customers regarding fees, provision of will copies and the implementation timescales for this change.

Fundraising Regulator launches revised Code of Fundraising Practice

On 6 June 2019, the Fundraising Regulator published the newest version of the new Code of Fundraising Practice, which will come into effect from October 2019.

The Code sets the standards for fundraising by charitable institutions and third-party fundraisers in the UK. The previous version of the Code is still in use until October, so charities and fundraisers should ensure that over the next two months they familiarise themselves with the newest version of the Code in readiness for when it comes into effect.

Charities and fundraisers will also need to review and update any organisational policies and procedures, fundraising policies, fundraiser inductions, training materials, contracts with partners and third parties, and other documentation which refer to the Code to ensure that any references to the Code are appropriately updated.

The standards set in the new Code have not changed. However, the Code is presented in a different order with a new numbering system that is more user-friendly and easier to navigate. The language has been reviewed to be in plain English and all the relevant standards relating to public collections that previously appeared in separate rule books can now be found in one place.

Commission launches programme to help close or revitalise dormant charities

On 17 July 2019, the Charity Commission published new guidance for trustees of inactive or ineffective charities to get help if they are not sure what to do. The ‘Revitalising Trusts’ programme helps charities who find it hard to:

  • get new trustees
  • spend their income for public benefit
  • identify beneficiaries
  • find time to run the charity.

The options available for these charities include:

  • transferring the charity’s assets to another charity
  • closing down or ‘winding up’ 
  • changing the charity’s purposes to continue working more effectively.

The Commission has so far written to over 1,000 trusts that have either not spent any money in the past five years or have spent less than 30 per cent of their income in the past five years, encouraging them to seek support. 

The Revitalising Trusts programme is run by the Charity Commission in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and UK Community Foundations with the aim of transferring up to £20m of dormant or inactive trusts to Community Foundations to invest in good causes. The programme is expected to provide an extra £1 million in grant funding to local community and voluntary groups each year.Trustees can get help by getting in touch with the UK Community Foundations or the Charity Commission.

Extended date for changes to public display of trustee legal names on the charities register

It was announced last year (and included in our New Year news round-up article) that the display name feature will be removed on the Charity Commission’s online charity register, and current trustees who have used the display name feature in the past will have their full legal name visible to the public, unless they have applied for a dispensation.

The change was due to take place on 1 April 2019 but the Commission has further extended the date to 1 April 2020 to give trustees more time to apply for a dispensation if needed.

If the display of a trustee’s full name would cause personal danger to the person, the trustee can apply to the Commission for a dispensation so that their legal name will not be displayed to the public.

This article is for general information only. If you require advice on how any of these changes may affect your charity, please contact Cassandra Ho or another member of the Charities and Social Enterprise Team.

The content of this article is from the August 2019 edition of The Essential Trustee and is for general information only. For further information please contact Liz Brownsell or or another member of our Charities and Social Enterprise Team. Law covered as at August 2019.