Covid-19 Update: The latest effects of coronavirus on your legal rights and our service.

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Coronavirus legal support hub

Charity advice during Covid

The challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to change on a daily basis. Our charity advice aims to provide you with all the latest news and information on your legal rights and issues to support you through this challenging situation.

 

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Charity Hands

 

Can we use telephone and videoconferencing instead of face-to-face trustee meetings?

In general, yes. In the current climate it is far more important for trustee boards to be making the best decisions they can, rather than concern themselves too much as to how they make those decisions.

It is important to check your charity’s governing document. Most modern charity governing documents are likely to expressly allow for meetings to be held remotely in any case. The governing document may also give the trustees discretion as to how they conduct their proceedings which may also help.

If your governing document does not expressly allow for this, the Charity Commission has indicated they will not be too concerned about the technicalities as long as trustees record any decision to meet remotely and that you have done this to demonstrate good governance of your charity.

It may also be possible for an amendment to be made to introduce appropriate provisions, although legal advice should be sought first.

 

Can we use reserves and restricted funds to help our charity?

The Charity Commission have confirmed that reserves can be used. Funds which are held for self-imposed restricted purposes can also potentially be re-purposed by the trustees.

But the terms of any restricted funds and funds held as permanent endowment must still be respected. Whilst there may be legal mechanisms available in some cases to relax restrictions, professional advice should be taken before seeking to access or release such funds, and the Commission suggest that should only be considered as a last resort if other options are not possible.

 

Can we use charity funds to provide additional financial support to our trading subsidiary?

Potentially, yes, but normal Charity Commission rules (set out in their guidance CC35) still need to be complied with and professional financial and legal advice should be taken.

Where the trading subsidiary is carrying out trading activity which the parent charity could not undertake itself, trustees will need to be able to satisfy themselves that any such funding is justifiable as an investment in the best interests of the charity. This is having considered the likely overall economic return to the charity, balancing likely future gifts of surplus profit against the risk of capital loss.

Trustees would need to be satisfied as to the future viability of the subsidiary as best they can and so there would be a need for analysis against updated business plans, cashflow forecasts and financial projections.

 

Does impact from Covid trigger a serious incident significant enough to file a serious incident report (SIR) at the Charity Commission?

Yes if the impact results in, or, risks significant:

  • harm to your charity’s beneficiaries, staff, volunteers or others who come into contact with your charity through its work;
  • loss of your charity’s money or assets;
  • damage to your charity’s property; or
  • harm to your charity’s work or reputation.

The Charity Commission have acknowledged that Charities’ primary focus must be looking after the public and the beneficiaries and communities that they serve. But trustees continue to be responsible to report serious incidents using current guidelines here.

The Charity Commission have also issued updated guidance, including specific examples, for when charity trustees need to make a serious incident report as a result of impact to the charity from the coronavirus pandemic.

Trustees are expected to use their judgement in deciding whether an incident is significant in the context of their charity and should be reported.

We are happy to assist trustees in determining whether an SIR should be made and if so, in the preparation of the SIR.

 

GET LEGAL ADVICE AND SUPPORT

Contact our legal experts

At Tozers our specialist solicitors have the experience and expertise you need. With legal experts working in specialist fields across commercial, personal and specialist sectors. Call us now on 01392 207 020 or contact us online