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Charities should not be 'junior partners in the welfare state', says William Shawcross

New Charity Commission chair tells Acevo annual conference he thinks some charities have become dependent on the state

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

Charities should ensure they do not become the "junior partner in the welfare state", according to the new chair of the Charity Commission.

In his first speech since starting the job, William Shawcross told the annual conference of the chief executives body Acevo that, in his personal view, "some charities have become dependent on the state".

"Partnerships with government enable many charities to stay in the mainstream of policy and to improve their services," he said. "But charities should not become the junior partner in the welfare state; whether or not they provide services funded by government or indeed receive grants from government, they must remain independent and focused on their mission.

"My personal view is that some charities have become dependent on the state. And I think that most members of the public, when asked, would say a charity is an organisation funded from private donations, not public funds."

The writer and former war correspondent also denied the commission was trying to "secularise society", given recent debate in parliament and the press about the commission and the charitable status of religious organisations.

"The suggestion some have put forward that the commission is seeking to overturn centuries of law and culture by questioning the charitable status of religious charities is, quite simply, wrong," he said.

"One MP asked me recently if the commission was part of a plan or even plot to secularise British society. Absolutely not, I said. I repeat that emphatically today."

Earlier this month, MPs called for an inquiry into the commission because of its decision not to register the Preston Down Trust, which runs a Plymouth Brethren meeting hall, as a charity. The trust has appealed to the charity tribunal against the decision.

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