The Charity Commission on 26 March 2017 responded to the publication of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities report ‘Stronger charities for a stronger society’ (HL Paper 133).
The Charity Commission will also respond formally in due course to the Committee.
William Shawcross, Chairman of the Charity Commission, said:
This report rightly demonstrates the vital role that charities play in our society, and why good governance and strong leadership is so important. We are pleased that the Committee recognises the progress the Commission has made in being a more effective regulator and we will study with interest the recommendations that have been made to strengthen our sector.
Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:
Good governance is the first building block for any successful charity and the report makes a number of practical suggestions as to how we can meet the current challenges. Our renewed focus on enablement, which includes our commitment to working more with partners in the charitable sector, is fully aligned with these suggestions. But this report, and the challenges charities are facing, require us all now to grasp the nettle and take real ownership to realise substantive and lasting change.
Responding to some of the key themes raised in the Committee’s report the Commission said:
Governance and leadership in charities
Ensuring trustees have access to the right information at the right time is crucial. We hope to meet the recommendations in this area primarily through a new charity services portal where trustees can go to receive tailored and timely information. We agree that infrastructure bodies also have a key role to play in order to develop collaborative models work together to collate the different information and opportunities available to trustees. We hope that our soon to be launched research will help further identify some of the gaps, and how they can be met.
Digital skills in the sector
All trustees - no matter how large or small their charity - should consider how they can use technology to better meet the needs of their beneficiaries, and how they can apply digital tools to make their governance systems more effective. We know that trustees will have different confidence levels when it comes to digital, and so have produced guidance to help steer their discussions and provide further support. We continue to work with partners to encourage charities to consider digital and the opportunities that it can bring.
The possibility of charities contributing towards the funding of the Commission
We recognise that this is a difficult discussion to have but are pleased that the Committee understands why we need to consider this important issue and ask the question. We agree that making the benefits of any changes clear to charities, as well as the way in which our services may be enhanced, is important. We also recognise the funding pressures on charities, especially the small ones, and hope to find a way forward which is sensitive to that. No decisions will be made on charging without a full, open consultation.
Diversity of the sector and the regulator
Diversity is an important issue for the Commission and charities to consider. Indeed, it is an issue across government, parliament and in wider society. We are committed to continuing to improve diversity throughout the Commission, including on our board which has until recently comprised women from BAME backgrounds. Appointments to the Board will be made by DCMS Ministers, but when vacancies are next advertised we will ask DCMS to allow us to work with a specialist recruiter with expertise in recruiting a diverse range of candidates.