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Charity whistleblowers: how and why we value them

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Guidance, Public Trust, Safeguarding


We want to make it easier for charity workers and volunteers to draw serious concerns about their charity to our attention, particularly where the charity’s trustees and senior management team aren’t addressing them.

The intelligence that we get from whistleblowers can be vital in helping us to protect charities from financial loss, safeguarding and many other serious risks.

We know that the decision to blow the whistle can be difficult for the individual because of the tensions it creates over their loyalty to the organisation and their own livelihood and status.

That’s why we’ve been significantly upgrading our support for potential whistleblowers in recent months.

Monday 3 June 2019 brings the next improvement when an advice line specifically for charity whistleblowers opens for business.

Callers to this advice line will receive confidential advice to help them decide what to do about raising a serious concern about their charity, including whether and how to raise their concerns with us.

Created by us (with funding from Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) but – crucially - operated independently by the specialist whistleblowing charity Protect, it’s part of our commitment to improving the confidence of individuals when facing what can otherwise be an isolating and difficult decision about speaking up.

This will be something that we pilot, so we will be closely monitoring and evaluating its impact on the experience of charity whistleblowers and on the amount and quality of intelligence it gives us.

Of course, we have to make sure that the whole process of blowing the whistle to us is effective from start to finish. This means, for example, being able to access at the start clear guidance from us. It also means facing as few barriers as possible to raising the sorts of serious concerns we want to hear.

Details of the whistleblowing process and advice line are available in our guidance: Report serious wrongdoing at a charity as a worker or volunteer.

Evaluating and acting on concerns

Once a whistleblower has contacted us, they need more re-assurance that we understand the points they have made and they also want more clarity on how we intend to proceed. To that end we are testing a new service that will see us:

  • phone each whistleblower directly to discuss the concerns they have raised
  • provide a direct point of contact should they need to speak to us further as we take the matter forward

We will continue to evaluate and act on concerns from whistleblowers in line with our risk operating model so that we are able to focus our attention on the most serious risks, and use information about less serious risks to build up a better informed picture of the threats to individual or groups of charities.

Last year I committed us to improving the experience of whistleblowers: hand in hand with that commitment lies our ability to detect and act on intelligence from whistleblowers about charities at serious risk of harm.

It’s another outward sign of our commitment to creating a regulatory environment that ensures that charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.

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  1. Comment by Nick Burton posted on

    Hi Helen,
    This is helpful and obviously a good thing to improve the support to whistle blowers. However it does not address two fundamental issues:

    1. The complete absence of protection for volunteer whistle blowers, including trustees, to prevent them simply being hounded out of their charity. They have no rights under whistleblowing legislation, employment law or any other statute.

    2. The lack of a principal regulator for exempt charities classed as mutual societies. The FCA, as their registrar, is deliberately thwarting what little recourse the 2014 Co-operative and Community Benefit Society Act offers society members, such as ordering a Special Meeting, by classing such requests as disputes and refusing get involved. In practice it is siding with the society's management and is therefore complicit in covering up the wrongdoing.

    What is the Charity Commission's policy on the lack of a principal regulator for charitable mutual societies? Does it want to add them to its responsibilities? If not what solution does it propose?

    • Replies to Nick Burton>

      Comment by Deb posted on

      Hi Nick

      We wanted to widen our internal approach to whistleblowing to include volunteers because we have a regulatory interest in encouraging anyone on the inside of a charity to report their serious concerns to us so that we are better able to detect problems in charities. We recognise that both workers and volunteers are likely to find it more difficult to raise concerns with us because to do so might end their relationship with the charity or result in recriminations. We’ve put in place extra processes and support so that they know that their concerns have been received and listened to . These measures are designed to improve the likelihood that whistle blowers will contact us with serious concerns. As you say, volunteers don’t have the equivalent protection in law but we think it’s still important for them to feel they can raise serious concerns with us and that they will be treated with care.

      We note your comments on the position of organisations which are charitable and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. As you point out these are exempt charities which are not registered with the Charity Commission. In an annex to our guidance on exempt charities we describe the position of such charitable organisations and their future regulation. The government department responsible for policy relating to charities is the Office for Civil Society which is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Any changes to the current regulatory position will primarily be a matter for them.

      Kind regards, Deb

  2. Comment by Donald Bligh posted on

    Where oh where is the email to complain to if you are only a supporter of the charity? Why don't you tell us

  3. Comment by Michael Cane posted on

    Do you authorise charities to engage in terrorism, plots to murder and unlawful data harvesting? If not, why have you ignored the criminality of the Charity Hope Not Hate - They have admitted breaching section 12(2) of the Terrorism Act 2000 and they have also breached section 19 of the act, and section 15. They have engaged in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. If you do not stop this Charity, the people will and any deaths it causes will be the result of your failure to act. This is no charity, it is an organised criminal enterprise begging for money to a limited company, whilst making the public believe they are donating to a charity