|Original design: Faizan Dawood|
Discretionary Funds [Guidance from the Church of England]
Care for those in need is an essential feature of Christian discipleship and an important part of the Church’s work. At the same time this work needs to be effectively managed. In the past people in need have turned to the clergy for help from Discretionary Funds. This role for the clergy is no longer appropriate.
It is important that there should be the closest possible working relationship between the Church and other agencies (Social Care Services etc.) in responding to calls for help. At national level there is great concern for the safety of the clergy and there is need to be aware of the danger if clergy are seen as dispensers of cash.
Inevitably with discretionary funds there is need for confidentiality (usually between incumbent and churchwardens), but in these days of much closer scrutiny by Charity Commissioners, Inland Revenue, etc. There is increasing need for openness. The greater the degree of confidentiality, the greater is the suspicion of the possibility of misappropriation.
For the above reason any Incumbent’s Discretionary Fund should cease forthwith and should be replaced by a system of discretionary help provided on a non-cash basis as recommended in “Clergy security: A Discussion Paper”, issued by the Advisory Board for Ministry. Every effort will be made to work in partnership with Social Services or other appropriate agencies.
If the PCC decides that there could be circumstances when financial contributions from the PCC funds could be deemed appropriate, clear procedures need to be in place for authorising such payments. It should be clearly understood that no payments of this kind can be authorised by any single person. Any discretionary payment needs to be authorised in writing by at least two of a nominated group of people who should then not sign the cheque for the payment they have authorised. For audit purposes a receipt should be obtained in all cases and this should be filed with the signed authorisation for the payment and a photocopy of the completed cheque. Such payments in total should be included in the annual Statement of Financial Activity (“SOFA”).
The following paragraph is all I can find for the Church in Wales:
5. THE PAROCHIAL CHURCH COUNCIL (Functions)
The PCC’s responsibilities are not limited to the eight areas set out above (see here). Specific mention is made (Chapter IVC section 8(4)) that, with the exception of Special Trusts and the Incumbent’s discretionary fund, parish finance should be under the control of the PCC. The PCC is a channel of communication between the parishioners and the Bishop.
One anonymous diocesan commentator under the previous entry, subsequently using the pen name Lawabiding complained "Whether it's moaning about Women, Bishops, Assistant Bishops, those who try and drag the church into the 21st Century, Ancient Briton and its followers always have some kind of axe to grind."
It seems to me and to other commentators that there is a legitimate axe to grind here. This is not only for transparency but for the protection of clergy. If the bishops really want to drag the Church of Wales into the 21st century they should at least get their priorities right and follow the example of the Church of England.
The amounts are not trivial. According commentators the Llandaff Diocesan Accounts show a grand total of £243,511 for the years from 2005 to 2013:
Year Mission Fund Discretionary Fund Total
2005 £ 6,488 £ 11,985 £ 18,473
2006 £ 3,911 £ 12,202 £ 16,113
2007 £ 3,791 £ 17,556 £ 21,347
2008 £ 6,077 £ 18,083 £ 24,160
2009 £12,976 £ 18,627 £ 31,603
2010 £12,922 £ 18,720 £ 31,642
2011 £11,461 £ 19,095 £ 30,556
2012 £15,196 £ 19,095 £ 34,291
2013 £16,231 £ 19,095 £ 35,326
This is not to suggest that funds have been misappropriated, rather it is the case that, as the Church of England recognised some time ago, "This role for the clergy is no longer appropriate". Meanwhile the long suffering parishioners are asked to give more!