The chief executive of the commission has told charities that the regulator is “getting tougher on itself and tougher on those charities that fail to comply with the law”. Speaking at the Charity Finance Summit in London, Paula Sussex said that the commission’s strategic approach had changed, and it was now becoming “tougher, smarter, more agile and more proactive”.
Ms Sussex, whose term of office began in late June, spoke about the “distinct, precious role charities play in our society” and stressed that this role rests “to a great degree on the trust and confidence the public places in charities”. She said her job as chief executive was to “make sure the commission becomes the most effective regulator possible, in accordance with our resources, so that we fulfil our role in upholding and promoting that trust”.
Referring to the commission’s statement of regulatory approach, which was published in its annual report of 2013-14, Ms Sussex said that “the best way for us to promote public trust and confidence in charities and to encourage charitable endeavour of all kinds is to concentrate on promoting compliance by trustees, enhancing the vigour with which we hold charities accountable and upholding the definition of charity under charity law”.
Ms Sussex stressed that the commission had already become a more robust regulator and pointed to the 64 statutory inquiries opened in 2013-14, compared to 15 opened during the previous year. She said that her immediate priority was to ensure the commission becomes more proactive and pointed to work now underway as part of a transformation programme, including a project to improve the regulator’s approach to assessing risks facing charities and one on improving the use of technology to make more of the commission’s services digital. Ms Sussex said that these changes will help the regulator focus its resources on the most high risk and serious case work.
Paula Sussex also reminded delegates of the vast scale of the charitable sector, pointing out that charities’ total income, at £64bn, exceeds the current budget of the Ministry of Defence. But she stressed that statistics alone don’t convey the role the charity sector plays in our society:
“These figures are fascinating, and they remind us that charities are everywhere and touch all of our lives all of the time. But they alone don’t tell the full story. They don’t tell us how important charities are to our society and to the lives of individuals. You can’t measure the confidence a child gains from being part of a scout troop, or the difference a charity lunch club makes to the life of an older person living alone, or the value civil society organisations add to our democratic culture. Like most of you in this room, I like to measure things. But even I recognise that the contribution charities make to our society is immeasurable.”
Paula Sussex added that the commission alone cannot uphold the trust the public places in charities. She told delegates that “each individual charity must respond to public expectations and ensure it does its bit to uphold public confidence in its organisation and the sector itself”. She called on charities to “show integrity, be accountable, and comply with [Charity Commission] guidance”.
Paula Sussex was speaking at the Charity Finance Summit at Central Hall in Westminster, London.
Notes to editors
- The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.
- Our mission is to be the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public’s interest, to ensure that:
- charities know what they have to do
- the public know what charities do
- charities are held to account