The chair of the steering group behind the Charity Governance Code has suggested that a proposed new code of ethics for the voluntary sector should be merged into the governance code because having two sets of standards could be confusing for trustees.
Rosie Chapman, a charity governance consultant and former director of policy and effectiveness at the Charity Commission, has told the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in a response written in a personal capacity that it might be better to amend the Charity Governance Code rather than have another set of standards for voluntary sector organisations.
The NCVO published a draft code of ethics for charities for consultation in July as part of a programme of work agreed by charities, umbrella bodies, the Charity Commission and the government after extensive negative media coverage of safeguarding problems at international aid organisations.
The Charity Governance Code, which was revamped last year, is voluntary and is designed to help charities and not-for-profit organisations develop high standards of governance.
In a letter to the NCVO, published on her website, Chapman says she welcomes the NCVO’s leadership role in drawing up a new code of ethics and exploring what new mechanisms might be put in place in areas including safeguarding and workplace practices and culture.
But she says she wonders if there is a missed opportunity in not using the existing Charity Governance Code for this purpose, particularly because there is considerable of overlap between the two documents.
"I believe the Charity Governance Code is an important tool in enabling the sector to be stronger," she says. "It is getting traction in the sector and is increasingly recognised as the source of governance best practice.
"I wonder if the creation of another code will attract the same attention or, instead, whether its purpose might be confusing for organisations and so hinder or undermine its important messages."
Chapman’s letter adds: "I wonder therefore whether there might be scope to either develop the Charity Governance Code to reflect any key elements within the draft Code of Ethics that are not already covered by the Charity Governance Code and/or to develop supporting guidance in this area to support the existing version of the Charity Governance Code."
An NCVO spokesman welcomed the feedback and said the organisation wanted to encourage everyone with an interest to read the code and give their views before the deadline on 26 September.