Fraud advice for parent carer forums

What is fraud?

Action Fraud (the UK’s national reporting centre for fraud and cyber crime) states that “fraud is when trickery is used to gain a dishonest advantage, which is often financial, over another person.” Fraud can be committed against individuals and organisations. 

Why do forums need to educate themselves about fraud?

As an organisation Contact is aware that parent carer forums are vulnerable to fraud from time to time. This can be in the form of internal fraud, committed by someone within the forum; or external fraud, by people that may not be directly involved in the forum.

Although fraud or misuse of funds is not a common occurrence, it is something that all forums need to be aware of, take steps to protect against, and combat. It is important to take fraud seriously as a parent carer forum. By taking immediate action, you will help to protect individuals in the forum, and the forum itself, allowing it to continue its good work.

We believe the best way to counter fraud is through education. If a forum is better informed, it will be able to put measures in place to prevent fraud from occurring and to spot it quickly if it does happen.

Your forum’s responsibilities as the recipient of the Department for Education (DfE) grant – a reminder to all forums

Parent carer forum committees or steering groups are responsible for managing public money effectively and for putting appropriate policies and safeguards in place to protect it.  

Forums are accountable to both their membership and the DfE. They must spend the grant money wisely to maximise their positive impact on the development of services for families of children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in their area.

If your forum needs support with budgeting, planning or any other aspect of managing the grant or running the forum, talk to your parent carer participation adviser.

What actions should you be taking now?

We don’t expect forums to take on all this information and guidance overnight. You should be continually working towards implementing these common-sense steps to protect public money and your forum’s members.

Induction of new forum members and staff

We recommend that all new forum members* and any forum staff familiarise themselves with the forum’s policies and procedures, including the finance and fraud policy, as part of their induction process.

* who will either be involved in the forum’s financial procedures, are employed staff, or who will claim expenses or remuneration from the forum, make purchases on the forum’s behalf, or who has a potential conflict of interest.

More information about the DfE grant

For further information about managing the DfE’s parent carer participation grant, see our grants page and supporting documentation:

Your forum also has complimentary access to Community Matters for specialist advice on Governance and legal matters.

What do we need to know about fraud?

Below we’ve put together some useful resources for forums that are available online.

Most of these materials focus on ‘charities’, and although not all forums are charities, the resources are still relevant. It is important that you read the materials to understand the potential risk of fraud to your forum and to incorporate elements of what you learn into your forum’s financial policy.

Parent carer forums are organisations in receipt of public money, and the expectations upon them will be very similar.

Tackling charity fraud: Eight guiding principles

To get started, here are some key points presented by the Charity Commission (UK government) in October 2019.

1. Fraud will always happen – simply being a charity is no defence

2. Fraud threats change constantly

3. Prevention is (far) better than cure

4. Trust is exploited by fraudsters

5. Discovering fraud is a good thing

6. Report every individual fraud

7. Anti-fraud responses should be proportionate to charity’s size, activities & fraud risks

8. Fighting fraud is a job for everyone

Download the Guiding Principles for Tackling Fraud – October 2019 [PDF].

“Small Charities Guide to Preventing Fraud” (Counter Fraud Campaign)

Small Charities Guide to Preventing Fraud

We recommend that forum committees/steering groups read the excerpt from ‘Small Charities Guide to Preventing Fraud”: How to protect your charity from fraud, pages eight to 14.

Develop an anti-fraud policy

Review your fraud policy annually

Communicate your fraud policy to all staff, volunteers and trustees

Trustees (committee/steering group) need to know their legal duties

Communicating about your work to combat fraud

Develop a whistleblowing policy

Tips for protecting against fraud from our parent carer participation team

Using expense claim forms

Making financial decisions

Making payments


Common types of fraud to look out for:

Useful online resources for forums about fraud

See below for resources that will support your understanding of how to protect your forum, and its members, from fraud:.

“Invoice fraud” (Fraud Advisory Panel)

Invoice Fraud – April 2019

A factsheet from the Fraud Advisory Panel explaining what invoice fraud is, how to detect it, what the warning signs are, and what actions to take. It encourages groups to trust their instincts. “If you think something is suspicious, it probably is.” Forums will find this particularly useful and relevant.

“Your Group’s Money” (Resource Centre, a useful place for community groups)

Your Group’s Money

Information and tips to help your whole community take responsibility for looking after your group’s money. Includes lots of easy-to-follow and practical advice. A key point that is highlighted is that “finances are the responsibility of the committee and members not just the treasurer!”

“Financial Rules” (Resource Centre, a useful place for community groups)

Financial Rules

Financial rules are your community group’s agreements about how it will look after its money. As well as helping your group to function better, financial rules show funders and other bodies that your group is looking after its money well.

“Protect your charity from fraud and cyber-crime” (The Charity Commission, GOV.UK)

Protect Your charity from fraud and cyber-crime

Information about fraud and cyber-crime, how to spot it and what you can do to protect against it.

Preventing Charity Fraud – Insights + Action (Fraud Advisory Panel/Charity Commission)

Preventing Charity Fraud – October 2019

The Charity Commission

Charity Finance Group

Fraud Advisory Panel

The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI)

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

NCVO – Financial Management – Fraud

Resource centre – a useful place for community groups

Small Charities Coalition

Small Charity Finance Programme