Press release: Charity regulator opens investigation into the Royal National Institute of Blind People, and subsidiary charity, with concerns about safeguarding at both charities

The Charity Commission has opened a statutory class inquiry into the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and its subsidiary charity, RNIB Charity, over concerns about the safeguarding of vulnerable beneficiaries.
The class inquiry was triggered by serious concerns about the oversight and management of a residential setting for children and young people in Coventry run by the subsidiary charity. On 2 March, the trustees of the charities reported a single serious safeguarding incident, which had taken place at the Pears Centre for Specialist Learning.

On 16 March 2018 the subsidiary charity also reported to the Commission the occurrence of several serious incidents over the course of last year, as well as notice of intended action by Ofsted, the regulator for children’s homes and specialist schools. The incidents raised concerns that the subsidiary charity may have consistently failed to comply with regulations designed to safeguard and protect vulnerable children.

The Commission immediately contacted RNIB and met with the Chair and Deputy CEO of RNIB on 27 March. The Commission’s inquiry opened on 29 March 2018.

The investigation will examine the governance, management and oversight of the charities’ safeguarding arrangements, including in particular, the trustees’ knowledge and oversight of what happened at the Pears Centre and controls that were or should have been in place, as well as the charity’s liaison with and reporting to relevant statutory agencies.

The inquiry will focus in particular on the trustees’ governance and oversight of safeguarding arrangements in the charities’ schools and care homes and will be reviewing whether trustees reported all relevant safeguarding incidents which have occurred to the Commission.

The Commission’s investigation will examine the extent to which the trustees of the charities have taken and are taking reasonable steps to protect users at the Pears Centre from harm. It will also work closely with Ofsted, and other agencies, as part of the inquiry.

The Commission is pleased to note that RNIB has determined to establish an independent review to consider its safeguarding arrangements. The review will also work closely with the Commission, which will provide oversight to ensure its independence and rigour.

If service users, and their families, of RNIB have any concerns they should contact the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999.


Notes to Editors

  1. The Charity Commission is the regulator of charities in England and Wales.
  2. Section 46 of the Charities Act 2011 gives the Commission the power to institute inquiries. The opening of an inquiry gives the Commission access to a range of investigative, protective and remedial legal powers.
  3. The Pears Centre is a school and children’s home in Coventry for young people who are blind or partially sighted and who also have multiple disabilities or complex needs, such as severe or profound learning disabilities and physical disabilities and is run by RNIB Charity (1156629).
  4. 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. In this case, the Commission also plans to issue an interim report in May. Reports of previous inquiries by the Commission are available on GOV.UK.
  5. The Commission has a very specific role in these circumstances where there are other specialist agencies involved. The regulation of the activities relating to the provision of education and care standards in the school and children’s home is undertaken by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission in this particular case. The Commission, as charity regulator, has an important regulatory role in ensuring that trustees comply with their legal duties and responsibilities in managing their charity. In the context of safeguarding issues, it has a specific regulatory role which is focused on the conduct of trustees and the steps they take to protect beneficiaries and other persons who come into contact with the charity.
  6. The Commission recently announced a new suite of measures on safeguarding including the establishment of a dedicated safeguarding task force.

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