Charity Commission to place more emphasis on support

At its annual public meeting yesterday, the regulator published a revised statement of its regulatory approach

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has published a revised statement of its regulatory approach, which it says will place greater emphasis on its enabling and supportive role.

The new document was launched yesterday at the commission’s annual public meeting in central London.

The regulator has faced criticism in recent years for appearing to focus on the enforcement and compliance aspect of its remit above its objective to support charities.

Paula Sussex, chief executive of the commission, told the meeting the regulator had not stopped supporting charities, but said "perhaps the focus and innovation went to our compliance work, and we think we understand that now".

The revised strategy would "renew further" the commission’s emphasis on enabling trustees to govern charities more effectively, she said.

The previous statement of regulatory approach, published in 2014, did not mention supporting trustees or enablement, and said the commission believed the best way for it to fulfil its statutory objectives and promote public trust and confidence in charities was to concentrate on promoting compliance and rigorously holding charities to account.

But the new version also includes "promoting the effective use of charitable resources by raising awareness" and "supporting trustees and enabling them to comply with their duties" among the best ways the commission can carry out its role and promote confidence.

The new statement says: "We will continue to promote trusteeship and the essential contribution of trustees, and to support trustees, primarily through improving the advice and guidance we provide."

It pledges to "review and streamline" the commission’s core guidance and regulatory interventions, with a particular focus on governance, financial management, outcomes for beneficiaries and standards of good practice.

The statement also pledges that the commission will improve the accessibility and reach of its information through digital communication.

Speaking at the public meeting, Sussex said that in practice the new document meant that some of the more straightforward legal permissions charities sought from the commission would be streamlined and made "more user-friendly" through the use of digital technology.

But she said the commission would maintain its telephone advice line for trustees who could not access its online services.

Tom Murdoch, partner at the law firm Stone King, said the introduction of the emphasis on trustee support was significant and the tone of the new document was "much friendlier".

"This focus on supporting trustees is much more helpful," he said. "It is what the commission has always been about but has not focused on as much as it could have done in recent years.

"The new approach is a positive recognition of what the sector needs."

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