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Sector information: charities

Find out more about whistleblowing in the charity sector

What does the Charity Commission do?

The Charity Commission is the regulator and registrar of charities for England and Wales. The Commission is a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998; concerns can be raised to the Commission about wrongdoing relating to the proper administration of charities and funds given or held for charitable purposes in England and Wales.[1]

What concerns will it consider?

When the Commission receives a concern about a charity, it will first establish whether the concern is within their regulatory remit. It is important to bear in mind that only cases of serious harm will be actively investigated as the Commission is most concerned with addressing “priority regulatory risk issues”. Examples of serious harm include:

  • if someone’s health or safety is in danger, for example if a charity does not use its safeguarding policy
  • a criminal offence, for example theft, fraud or financial mismanagement
  • if a charity uses its activities as a platform for extremist views or materials
  • loss of charity funds, for example when a charity loses more than 20% of its income or more than £25,000
  • if the charity does not meet its legal obligations, for example if someone uses a charity for significant personal advantage

If the concern is within the Commission’s remit but is classed as a low risk to the charity and the people it helps, the concern will be recorded.

What action does the Charity Commission take?

How the Commission addresses the concern depends on the nature and level of risk related to the issue. The type of action the Commission can take includes: -

  • Opening a statutory inquiry. The Commission has the power to formally investigate a charity by obtaining information and documents from a charity, visiting the charity’s premises and interviewing trustees.
  • Using temporary protective powers. The Commission can protect charity property for a temporary period whilst investigating. For example, the Commission can issue an official warning to the charity or trustees, limit a charity’s financial transactions, suspend trustees or employees, and appoint interim managers to manage affairs alongside or instead of trustees.
  • Using permanent powers. The Commission can implement permanent solutions to resolve issues identified in the inquiry. For example, the Commission can remove an employee or trustee from the charity and establish a scheme for the administration of a charity.

How do I raise a concern with the Charity Commission?

The Charity Commission have recently changed their process of handling whistleblowing complaints. If raising a concern to the Commission, you first need to answer 10 questions over email:

  1. What is the name of the charity? Include its registration number if it’s registered.
  2. What is your name?
  3. What is your role at the charity? If you no longer work for the charity, please tell us when you left.
  4. Are you a charity employee or a volunteer?
  5. What is your concern?
  6. What impact does it have on the people the charity helps, its assets, services, staff or reputation?
  7. Have you followed your charity’s complaints procedure or raised it with the charity’s trustees? What was the response? If you have not raised it with your charity, please explain why not.
  8. Have you contacted other organisations, like the police or HMRC? Include reference numbers, the name of who dealt with it, and their response if you have.
  9. Do you give permission to us to reveal your identity to the charity’s trustees?
  10. If you attach evidence to your email, how is it relevant to your concern?

The Commission will then aim to contact you to schedule a phone call to discuss your concerns. If an investigation takes place, updates are not usually provided but you will be notified of the outcome. If the case is complex, the investigation may take several months.

You can email the Charity Commission: whistleblowing@charitycommission.gov.uk

Click here for more information on whistleblowing to the Charity Commission

[1] “Whistleblowing: list of prescribed people and bodies” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/blowing-the-whistle-list-of-prescribed-people-and-bodies--2/whistleblowing-list-of-prescribed-people-and-bodies#charities accessed 28/01/2019.


The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is the independent regulator and registrar for Scottish charities. OSCR is a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998; concerns can be raised to OSCR about wrongdoing relating to the proper administration of charities and of funds given or held for charitable purposes in Scotland.[1] OSCR has powers to conduct inquiries and investigations into Scottish charities.

When contacting OSCR, OSCR provides:

  • acknowledgement within 15 days of receiving a whistleblowing complaint,
  • information about whether the issue raised falls within the remit of PIDA and OSCR regulatory matters within 6-8 weeks of the disclosure being submitted,
  • and an outcome of the assessment. If it is determined that the issue is within OSCR’s regulatory remit further inquiries will be made.
  • Once inquiries have been completed, OSCR will inform you in writing about the outcome in general terms.[2]

You can contact OSCR by telephone 01382 220 446 or by email: C&I@oscr.org.uk

Click here for more information on whistleblowing to OSCR

[1] “Whistleblowing: list of prescribed people and bodies” .

[2] “Whistleblowing to OSCR” https://www.oscr.org.uk/media/2713/2015-04-27-oscr-whistleblowing-guidance.pdf accessed 11/02/2019.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator for charities in Northern Ireland. The Commission a prescribed person under the Public Interest Disclosure (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 (PIDO); concerns can be raised to the Commission about wrongdoing relating to the proper administration of charities and of funds given or held for charitable purposes in Northern Ireland.

Concerns can be reported directly to the Commission by completing and submitting an online “Concern about a charity” form. You should let the Commission know in the form if you want to raise the concern in accordance with PIDO.

When raising a concern with the Commission, the Commission will encourage you to provide as much evidence as possible and your name and contact details for further contact and ensures confidentiality. Without viable evidence or information, the Commission may find it inappropriate to investigate the concern.

The Commission formally acknowledges receipt of your concern within 5 working days.

The Commission carries out a risk assessment and based on this assessment there may be the following actions:

    • No action. The Commission may decide not to act if the concern is not within the Commission’s remit,
    • Self-regulatory enquiry. A self-regulatory enquiry will usually result in the Commission working with the charity to resolve the concern. This often involves the Commission providing the charity with best practice guidance.
    • Regulatory enquiry. This will often result in the Commission making recommendations to the charity, including a timeframe for implementation and follow up monitoring by the Commission to ensure compliance.
    • Statutory enquiry. The Commission will conduct a statutory enquiry if there is serious and substantial risk to the assets or beneficiaries of a charity. The Commission’s powers include but are not limited to suspending or removing trustees or employees, restricting transactions and appointing trustees or an interim manager.

You can contact the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland by telephone 028 3832 0220 or complete the online Concern about a charity form.

Click here for more information on whistleblowing to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland