Reporting changes for Scottish charities to go ahead

Scotland’s charity regulator OSCR has published the responses to its consultation ‘Targeted Regulation of Scottish Charities’, which ran from August to October (and was covered by VoluntaryNews).

Proposals included:

  • Changing the content of the Annual Return that all charities complete and file with the Regulator
  • Publishing charity annual reports and accounts on the Scottish Charity Register
  • Developing a database of all charity trustees
  • Introducing a regime of Serious Incident Reporting where charities would be required to actively report such incidents occurring in their charity to the Regulator.

These were largely supported, although there were clear areas where the consultation showed that further work is required.

The regulator’s Board has agreed the following next steps for OSCR (extracted from short report for charity discussion, pdf 166KB):

  • We will publish information about the key issues that we want to focus on and generally how those issues will impact on what we do.
  • We will change the Annual Return so that it asks questions that better add to our knowledge about how charities are operating. The system developed for issuing and analysing the Return will be a flexible one, as areas of risk for the charity sector will change over time. We will develop clear guidance on the changes and work with support organisations to help ensure that there is sufficient support in the initial implementation phase. We will work towards getting all charities to use online filing facilities, making sure that the support needs of charity users are considered as a core part of our programme.
  • We will move ahead with the project to publish charity annual reports and accounts, initially by encouraging more charities to get their reports and accounts online and actively sharing links to these on our Register.
  • We will be issuing guidance on good practice in preparing and publishing Trustee Annual Reports, particularly aimed at small charities.
  • Work will be done on the development of an internal trustee database. This will include clarifying the information that we are requesting. We do not intend to publish trustee details on the Register as part of this initiative.
  • We will develop a new approach to charity review that will be more holistic in nature. We will move away from the routine annual check on all charity accounts to develop a more integrated system using information from a variety of sources. This should allow us to concentrate on sub-sectors and charities that are posing a higher risk to public trust and confidence, and allow us to be more proactive as a regulator.
  • We will be initiating a regime similar to serious incident reporting. However, there will be further work done on clarifying the actual incidents we are interested in and developing benchmarks and guidance about when an incident is serious and needs to be reported.
  • We will be increasing our resources and visibility in terms of tackling the number of charities that are in default by persistently not submitting their annual returns and annual reports and accounts to us.
  • Digital service development and delivery will be an essential strand of all future work. We will be looking to make more and more services available online over time.

Charities will begin to see changes during 2015-2016, with many of the bigger changes being implemented at the start of financial year 2016-2017, when redesigned IT systems should be in place. Changes will be communicated well in advance, particularly where these impact on what charities need to do.

Get the full report (pdf, 393KB) and stakeholder responses (Excel spreadsheet, 18.8MB) via OSCR’s news item at http://www.oscr.org.uk/hot-topics/regulators-changes-to-reinforce-public-confidence.

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