Commission's 'one-stop shop' to handle inquiries

The Charity Commission is to launch a new service it hopes will reduce complaints about inconsistency and delay in its response to inquiries from charities and the public.

Charity Commission Direct, which begins operating next Tuesday, is a 'one-stop shop' based in Liverpool. It will receive inquiries by telephone, mail, email and fax.

The 51-strong unit will include a team of experienced middle managers who will give priority to trustees and charity staff and hopes to deal with 80 per cent of inquiries themselves.

Some inquiries will be referred to other agencies, and complex charity questions will be sent to other commission departments to be looked into.

The commission gets about 250,000 phone calls, 30,000 emails and 50,000 letters a year.

Sandie Brown, head of Charity Commission Direct, said she hoped the new unit would boost satisfaction levels to about 90 per cent from the current level of about 80 per cent.

"This is core to our strategic review," she said. "It's a root-and-branch commitment. I want our people to get close to the customer and get their hands dirty.

"Targeting all inquiries to one point means the team will be able to deal with the issues and spot the trends - they'll be able to share information that used to be spread around different parts of the organisation."

She said the unit would aim to pick up 90 per cent of phone calls in 30 seconds and deal with 90 per cent of them there and then. The target for emails was a reply within five days, and for letters 15 days, improving to ten days for 80 per cent of them.

A translation service could be mobilised in a few minutes, said Brown, and there were plans to open the office on Saturdays. New software is also planned for the commission website so it can deal with frequently asked questions and help customers help themselves.

Postal inquiries can be sent to Charity Commission Direct and Charity Commission Direct Wales, PO Box 1227, Liverpool L69 3UG. The unit can be contacted by phone on 0845 300 0218 (0219 for the hearing impaired), fax on 0151 703 1555 and email at enquiries@charitycommission.gov.uk.

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