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Charity trustee FAQs

Generally speaking, all committee members are trustees of a PTA, so what responsibilities do charity trustees have? Neal Green, Senior Policy Advisor at the Charity Commission, explains...

As chairperson, what legal duties do I need to comply with?

All members of the committee should know their six main duties as charity trustees - these are explained in The Essential Trustee on the Charity Commission website.

In practice, the chair may have more to do than other trustees: making sure that committee meetings are properly organised and minuted (the secretary has a role here too); ensuring that everyone is fully informed and can take part in discussions that lead to good decisions; encouraging everyone to turn up to meetings; identifying the skills and experience the charity needs to run effectively; recruiting committee members with these skills.

Who can become a trustee and how should they be appointed?

Anyone can be a trustee of a PTA provided they are over 18 and are not legally disqualified. The reasons why someone might be disqualified are explained in The Essential Trustee. For example, those who have taken out an IVA, are undischarged bankrupt, have an unspent conviction for an offence involving dishonesty or deception, or are disqualified as a company director. Trustees must be appointed in accordance with the rules set out in the charity's governing document. Most trustees of a PTA must be elected from the membership at the AGM.

I have taken over as chairperson, but can't find our governing document - what should I do?

Many PTAs use the Parentkind model constitution. Check the Charity Commission register to see whether your constitution has been amended from the standard model or if you have something different (such as a constitution for a Charitable Incorporated Organisation). You should be able to get a copy by asking the Charity Commission, particularly if your constitution is not the standard Parentkind model. Members of Parentkind can get a copy of the model document from them.

Do trustees need to undertake DBS checks?

Trustees are not legally required to have DBS checks, but as your PTA role may bring you into contact with children we strongly recommend that PTA trustees consider getting DBS checks. 

What reporting requirements must we adhere to?

All registered charities must send some information to the Charity Commission each year, but what you should send depends on your constitution and income. The guide, Charity Reporting and Accounting: The Essentials, explains the type of accounts you need to prepare, getting them audited or examined, and what you need to submit.

How many signatories are required for financial matters?

Requiring two unrelated signatories to authorise cheques is a basic financial control. You should also make it a rule never to sign blank cheques. In practice you may want to appoint more than two authorised signatories in case one isn't available. For more information on basic financial controls and management, see The Essential Trustee. Check your governing document for any specific requirements.

As treasurer, should we have a written policy for how money is given to the school, and should we ask for copies of receipts?

It's the whole committee, not just the treasurer, who is responsible for managing the charity's funds and resources responsibly. You must make sure the charity's assets are only used to support or carry out its purposes. The committee should decide what activities or equipment at the school it wants (and can afford) to fund. Agree this with the school, get written receipts for funds paid to the school, and take reasonable steps to ensure that the school spends the money as agreed.

When it comes to paying expenses, what should or shouldn't be covered?

Expenses must be reasonable and genuinely incurred in the course of the charity's work, such as travel. It's up to the charity to set its own expenses policy, but it's a good idea to encourage people to claim. This saves any embarrassment and it doesn't make trusteeship expensive for people who can't afford to be out of pocket.

How often should accounts be presented to the committee?

Have a financial update at every meeting unless the committee decides that they need it less often.

The whole committee is responsible for the finances so they need information presented in a way that is clear, accurate and everyone can quickly understand.

Should we put together written policies on things such as managing conflict, claiming expenses, code of conduct…?

It's a good idea to have policies on these things so everyone knows what the 'rules' are. As a charity working with children, you also need a safeguarding policy. 'Codes of conduct' sets out what is expected of trustees and what kinds of behaviour are ok or not ok. Agree a 'conflicts of interest (or loyalty) policy' to ensure that you always: identify and declare conflicts of interest; prevent conflicts of interest from affecting decisions; record conflicts of interest and how they were dealt with. 



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