Led by Girlings Solicitors’ third sector and governance specialist, Caroline Armitage, the seminar ‘Compliance Burden or Ethical Good Practice?,’ held at Broome Park on 8 November attracted trustees and other senior representatives from charities and not for profit organisations from across Kent.
The seminar focussed on the central issue of how to get people working in the third sector to embrace regulation and conform to new ways. To kick off, Caroline outlined the legal landscape in the context of the principle regulators, laws and regulations and set out an approach for managing compliance issues.
Cate Russell, CEO of Pilgrims Hospices’ inspiring keynote speech drew on her experience as former Global Medical Sales Director for Danone, a 23.6 Billion Euro business responsible for Ethical Sales across 62 countries and her transition out of the corporate world to work in the Third Sector. She said; ‘I can honestly say I have faced greater challenges and more personal drama in this role than I ever faced within Industry – as Sathnam Sanghera said in his article in the Times June 2017 ‘Making the jump from corporate to charity is not for the faint of heart!’’
Summing up Cate said, ‘We can see compliance as a ‘Burden’ or as a means to establish and build Trust. Trust equals success – people buy from trusted suppliers – people give to a charity they trust. Trust is something that has to be earned and then nurtured. If you can demonstrate Good Practice and your culture is seen to be ethical could this help fast track Trust? That has to be a business advantage.’
The seminar, purposely held a week in advance of Trustees Week 2018, provided an ideal forum for attendees to keenly debate a number of key issues. Challenges identified included embedding a culture of compliance effectively for both staff and volunteers and how to encourage calibre trustees to get involved despite the responsibility, time and perceived liability involved.
Caroline and Cate were joined by an expert panel which included Susan Robinson, Head of Charities and Not for Profit at Kreston Reeves, and legal experts from Girlings Solicitors; Andrew Watson (Contested Probate), Jeremy Burke (Commercial Property), Charlotte Nock (Wills & Probate) and David Morgan (Employment Law) who ended the session by offering a series of tips for charities in each of their specialist areas:
Jeremy Burke: Commercial Property: For disposal of charity land, get legal advice as early as possible as this can save time and money. Unfortunately there are no short cuts and it is important to abide by sections 117 to 122 of the Charities Act (CA) 2011.
The disposal must be in the charity’s best interests, and a Charity Commission or court order is required to authorise the sale or letting of charity property. A surveyor will need to be instructed to produce a report to confirm that the proposed sale is on the best terms reasonably available.
Andrew Watson: Contested Probate: Charities are major recipients of legacies and it is their legal duty to protect any legacy left to them. Unfortunately, claims against such legacies are on the rise (a recent high profile example is Illot v the Blue Cross and others) and many legacies get wasted on contested probate claims. It is therefore important to enlist the help of a specialist in this area to offer timely advice, should the need arise.
David Morgan: Employment Law: Under GDPR the processing of special categories of personal data (previously known as sensitive data) is prohibited unless a ground for processing is met. It is important that charities have a data protection policy and processes in place; for example for volunteers and their access to patient health data. If a data breach occurs the ICO will be punitive if you have no provisions in place. However, if you are still not quite up to the mark you still have the opportunity to get your house in order.
Charlotte Nock: Wills & Probate (Private Client): When clients come to make a Will they often have a discussion with their legal advisor about charitable beneficiaries and to whom they want to leave their money. In these discussions, the Charity’s reputation - and the amount of money that goes directly to fund its charitable causes - are highly important factors in the decision making process.
Lay Executors can also be a challenge for charities. They can be a law unto themselves, and sometimes cannot be relied upon to work in the best interest of the charitable beneficiary.
Susan Robinson: Charities and Not for Profit, Kreston Reeves:
Use your Trustees Report effectively to tell a compelling and engaging story.
In the midst of Local Authority funding cuts, make sure you fully understand the cost of the service you are delivering.
Caroline Armitage said, ‘The seminar was a highly interactive session and has stimulated important debate allowing senior people within the charity sector to share concerns as well as good practice. Feedback has been extremely positive and there is definitely an appetite from attendees for us to run a similar event next year.’
For further advice on Third Sector and governance issues contact Caroline Armitage.
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