Charity Commission Launches Statutory Inquiry Over Concerns at Devon Homelessness Charity

Regulator escalates probe into management and administration of Humanity Torbay

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory inquiry into Humanity Torbay (registered charity 1175068) over serious concerns about the trustees’ oversight and management of the charity.

The Torbay charity exists to support homeless people by, for example, running drop-in advice sessions or providing clothing and food.

However, the regulator has had to engage with the trustees on several occasions in the past year after some posts on the charity’s social media did not appear to comply with the Commission’s guidance on campaigning and political activity. Despite the Commission issuing formal regulatory advice to the trustees about the need to ensure personal political views are kept separate from the charity, it has received further complaints about political content being posted online, including on the charity’s Facebook page.

Charities can undertake political activity and campaigning if it furthers or supports their purpose, but such activity must never be party political and a charity must stress its independence at all times.

The regulator is concerned that the trustees of Humanity Torbay do not have sufficient oversight or control of the charity’s social media content which should only be used to promote the charity’s objects and services.

Due to its serious concerns, the Commission opened a statutory inquiry into Humanity Torbay on 9 June 2020. The inquiry will examine the trustees’ compliance with regulatory advice and guidance, in particular in relation to use of the charity’s social media channels.

It will also probe the trustees’ management of the charity’s resources and financial affairs, compliance with their general legal duties and responsibilities, and whether the charity’s governance is fit for purpose. The regulator has been looking into the charity’s finances after an independent examiner’s report in the accounts for the financial year ending 31 March 2019 highlighted concerns about accounting records.

The Commission may extend the scope of the scope of the inquiry if further regulatory concerns arise. It is the Commission’s policy, after it has concluded an inquiry, to publish a report detailing what issues the inquiry looked at, what actions were undertaken as part of the inquiry and what the outcomes were. Reports of previous inquiries by the Commission are available on GOV.UK.