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Covid-19: Charities Q&A – AGMs, incident reporting, data protection, emergency funding
AGMs AND FILING OF ANNUAL REPORTS AND ACCOUNTS
1. Can I postpone my charity’s AGM?
Yes Current government advice may lead to some charities having no choice but to decide to postpone their AGMs. If as trustees, you decide it is necessary to postpone your AGM, you should record this decision to demonstrate good governance of your charity.
2. Can I cancel my charity’s AGM?
No You will need to hold an AGM at some point in order to finalise your annual reports and accounts.
3. What happens if I cannot file my annual report and accounts on time?
The Charity Commission have asked that you try to get your annual reports to them on time. In order to facilitate this, they have stated that they will be understanding of any decision trustees take to hold an AGM virtually using telecommunications facilities, even if there is no power in your constitution to do this. To do so you must simply record your decision and the reasons for it.
However, this may not be practical, and trustees should record their reasons for deciding against trying to hold an AGM remotely. If this means that you will miss a filing date, you should call the Charity Commission on 0300 066 9197 from Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm.
SERIOUS INCIDENT REPORTING
1. What has the Charity Commission said?
You may be aware that on 12 March 2020, the Charity Commission issued a news alert advising charities that, if they were seriously impacted by 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), they might need to make a serious incident report to the regulator. It said that a charity would be expected to report if it stopped all or a significant part of its work due to COVID-19, as this would have a serious impact on the charity’s work and operations.
This was widely criticised by the charity sector as unhelpful and burdensome.
2. What is the impact of criticism of the Charity Commission position?
On 13 March 2020, the Charity Commission revised its guidance. It continues to urge charities to check the latest advice from Public Health England, but now says that:
“Charities should continue to report serious incidents using the current guidelines and their own judgement.”
3. Going Forward
The Charity Commission has acknowledged that its initial response was “not as helpful as it would have liked”. They will advise if this situation changes, but, for now, the same rules apply as before.
DATA PROTECTION FOR COMMUNITY GROUPS
1. I have set up a community group to respond to Covid-19. Does data protection law apply?
Yes: Community groups will often need to handle sensitive personal information and share it with others. This means taking account of data protection law, but it will not stop you from helping those in need. The law helps you handle people’s information responsibly. That means taking proper care of things like people’s names and addresses as well as more sensitive details about their health or religion.
2. Do I need to tell the people I am helping what I am doing with their personal data?
Yes: You should be clear, open and honest with people, so tell them why you need their personal data, what you will do with it and with whom you are going to share it. If possible, write this down in a privacy notice, but if that will delay vital support, then you can just speak to people.
3. Can I share personal data in an emergency?
Yes: In an emergency, sharing information with other agencies such as a local council or the emergency services could make a real difference to public safety. Data protection law does not prevent you sharing personal information where it is appropriate to do so. When the emergency is over, make sure you and your volunteers securely delete or destroy any personal information that you no longer need.
4. Do I need to keep personal data secure?
Yes: You must look after the personal data you collect. That means keeping it secure on a device with password access or in a locked cabinet. Think about the impact on a vulnerable person if the information they entrusted to you becomes lost or stolen and try to reduce the risk of that happening.
5. Do I need to keep any records?
Yes: Keep notes of what you have done and why, and then make more detailed records as soon as possible.
Disclaimer: Nothing in the Legal Insights section and this blog is intended to provide legal or other professional advice and, if readers are interested, they should consider taking separate legal or other professional advice accordingly.
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