Serious incident reporting

We’ve collated the following information about charity regulators across the UK and their expectations and requirements for reporting the organisational impacts of coronavirus.


If you’re union is a charity, you’ll be regulated by one of the following bodies:

  • the Charity Commission for England and Wales;
  • The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland; or,
  • Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.


Each has requirements for reporting incidents and events which impact on the charity’s ability to meet its objectives.  


We are not able to submit a collective response on behalf of our members. This is because it is the responsibility of the charity trustees to decide whether an incident is significant and should be reported: they’re responsible for assessing the seriousness and material impact of any issue on their own charity. It’s not viable, nor would it be considered appropriate by the regulators, for NUS to take responsibility for reporting out of the hands of trustees as although every students’ union will have been impacted by Coronavirus pandemic, they will be impacted in very different ways.


Below we outline the requirements for each of the regulators for reporting, and signposts for your board so they know what they need to do to report how your charity has been impacted.


England and Wales

  • The Charity Commissions coronavirus guidance is here.
  • In the guidance, charity trustees are reminded they must continue to report serious incidents using the existing guidelines and in the context of their own charity.
  • In its set of examples in the existing guidelines, the Commission highlights the following as incidents which warrant a report in the context of a charity:
    • Significant impact on the charity’s services (note: you can see our research on the impact of coronavirus on students here)
    • Significant financial loss
    • A sudden loss of 20% or more of charity’s income where the charity has no reserves, meaning staff will be laid off and services stopped
    • Any other type of incident that appears serious and likely to damage reputation or incur loss of charitable funds assets
    • Insolvency
  • Coronavirus means that work is disrupted and income is reduced for many charities, yet trustees can’t use the far-reaching nature of the pandemic as a reason not to raise matters as a serious incident and we know many students’ unions are facing some of the scenarios listed above.
  • The commission says it understands that from time to time serious incidents will happen – their expectation is that these are reported promptly. We therefore encourage trustees to consider all risks in the context of their charity and report serious incidents linked to the pandemic.
  • If you decide to report a serious incident, you will need to complete the Charity Commission’s form for reporting a serious incident which is here.


Northern Ireland

  • The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland’s coronavirus guidance for charities is here.
  • Their stance on special incident reporting at present is:
    • “The Commission understands that many charities may be affected by the current COVID-19 situation.
    • Should charity trustees decide they are temporarily closing their charity to manage this situation then there is no requirement to issue a serious incident report to the Commission. Charities should continue to issue serious incident reports for all other matters where appropriate.”
  • Their full guidance on serious incident reporting is here.



  • The OSCR has taken a more relaxed approach. Their Covid-19 guidance for charities states:
    • ​​​​“Our notifiable events regime was set up in order that we might play a role in minimising the impact of serious problems and issues on charities.  By hearing about serious problems at a relatively early stage, the aim was to play a more preventative and facilitative role.  Notifiable events do not cover every incident, only those that may have a significant impact on your charity.
    • The same applies in the current situation.  We only need to hear about something if it was likely to have a serious impact on your charity in the longer term.  For example, you being able to carry on with your activities.
    • However, reporting does not need to be at the top of your list.  Making sure you have the time and space with your fellow trustees to make the right decisions for your organisation is the main thing to be thinking about.  As always, make sure you are recording the decisions you make and the reasons for them.  And, if your trustees do think it is going to have a significant impact on your charity, then let us know when you can.” 
  • Should your trustees feel the need to inform the regulator of a long term significant impact on your charity, you will need to complete the OSCR’s form for reporting a notifiable event which is here.
  • Their full guidance on reporting notifiable events is here.


Further information and resources

Every NUS member is also an associate member of NCVO, SCVO, WCVA and NICVA. We recommend the following resources for further information on their websites:

  • NICVA coronavirus advice for charities is available here.
  • NCVO advice for trustees on issues to consider whilst planning your charity’s response to coronavirus, including special incident reporting is here.
  • SCVO advice for trustees on issues to consider whilst planning your charity’s response to coronavirus, including reporting notifiable events is here.
  • WCVA coronavirus advice for charities is available here.