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UK whistleblowing reports up by 15 per cent

The UK Charity Commission will update its whistleblowing guidelines after new figures show an increase in incidents over the last year

The UK charity watchdog will update its whistleblowing guidelines in response to an increase of reported incidents over the last year.

Figures have shown that the number of whistleblowing reports made to the Charity Commission grew by almost 15 per cent, with 101 reports made by employees to the regulator. This is up from 88 reported incidents the previous year.

In a statement, the Charity Commission said it will provide improved guidelines, more training for its staff and will work with a specialist organisation to set up a helpline designed to provide whistleblowers with a platform to report incidents.

“We will put improved processes in place for our handling of whistleblowers and their disclosures both during our initial assessment of reports and at the conclusion of any cases that we subsequently open,” the regulator said.

An increase in the number of safeguarding issues was cited as the main reason for the surge of whistleblowing reports. According to the commission’s figures, 24 complaints were made in 2017/18, compared to the 15 reported the year prior.

This follows on from a number of major safeguarding incidents across the foreign aid sector, specifically scandals at Oxfam and Save the Children.

“Our aim is to make it straightforward for charity workers to bring concerns covered in PIDA (Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) to our attention,” the regulator said. “It is important that they feel able to speak up about a serious wrongdoing.”

The Charity Commission said the whistleblowing reports helped to initiate the needed investigations, take action to protect charities, identify governance issues not raised in the report and ensure safeguarding duties are being met. In some cases, the regulatory body used its statutory powers to put charities back on track.

“We understand how difficult it may have been for them to bring a matter to our attention, and it’s important to them,” the Charity Commission said. “We recognise the value of this information, as workers will have a unique insight into how a charity is operating on a day to day basis.”

Governance issues were the most common reason for whistleblowing complaints, with 60 complaints in the last financial year, compared to 57 in 2016/2017.

Fraud and money laundering, theft, criminality, terrorism and sham charities were also cited as reasons for whistleblowing reports. Of the 101 reports, it identified 82 as requiring some regulatory action, but most were handled with by advice.

Of its new measures to protect whistleblowers, the commission said: “We will improve our approach to recording whistleblowing disclosures to provide us with better analysis. This will help us provide more detail to the public about the disclosures we receive and will also inform further developments to our approach to handling them.”

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