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Whistleblowing disclosures to Charity Commission doubles in last two years – but still much to be done rebuilding trust, says Protect

As latest figures from third sector regulator the Charity Commission reveal more people are coming forward to raise concerns, whistleblowing Protect say it’s a step in the right direction but still so much to be done to rebuild trust amongst the UK’s 166,000 charities and staff.

Whistleblowing disclosures have doubled from 185 whistleblowing reports in the year to 31 March, up from 88 in 2016/17 and an 83.2 per cent rise on the 2017/18 figure, a report from the regulator shows.

Over the past five years, safeguarding, governance and concerns about money laundering and fraud have been the most commonly reported issues – but safeguarding with 89 disclosures has become the number one concern compared with 24 the year before.

The Charity Commission report highlights how it has reviewed its approach to whistleblowing and widened its definition of whistleblowing to include volunteers. As well as including volunteers, the report highlights a new approach to make the process clearer, revising the guidance, and launching a whistleblowing helpline and training commission staff to deal with whistleblowers.

Francesca West, Chief Executive of whistleblowing charity Protect, which runs an advice line for whistleblowers as well as a pilot Charity Commission helpline, said, “It is of course encouraging the Charity Commission are seeing whistleblowing disclosures rise and taking steps to help the sector. However, what we are hearing through calls to our advice line is that charity workers, who are prepared to speak up, are still feeling very scared and worried about raising concerns with their employer. There’s a lot to do to restore trust amongst workers that it is safe to speak up at work, and that it can make a difference if they do.” The charity has seen cases double since the launch of the pilot helpline in June this year.

The Charity Commission said the increase in safeguarding calls  is ‘likely to have been influenced by the high-profile nature of safeguarding incidents emerging from the charity sector this year.’

In a bid to help improve whistleblowing/safeguarding culture within the sector, Protect have launched a free pilot to charities offering its 360 Benchmark whistleblowing tool – which sets out 33 standards for whistleblowing arrangements – to around 30-40 charities to help them understand where they might be falling short on best practice.

The pilot will be launched at a round table event,  Safeguarding & Whistleblowing in the Third Sector – Panel debate & roundtable on October 24 in Central London. If you are a large charity and would like to attend, a few places are still available. Please confirm your attendance by contacting lou@protect-advice.org.uk