Charity Commission reconsiders role of Independent Complaints Reviewer

New complaints procedure has referred just three cases since January 2008

The Charity Commission is reviewing its use of the Independent Complaints Reviewer after the regulator's internal review procedure led to only three cases being referred to the ICR last year.

The reviewer, Jodi Berg, is the last port of call for people who are unhappy with the commission's service or its non-legal decisions.

In 2007-08, 13 complaints were referred to her - but the commission's new complaints procedure, which was launched in January 2008, has resulted in only three out of 69 complaints being referred.

Andrew Hind, chief executive of the commission, told the regulator's open board meeting yesterday that he could say little in public about the commission's financial arrangements with the ICR, but he assured the board that he was discussing the implications of the reduced caseload with the ICR, with a view to the commission making savings.

The commission currently pays the ICR a flat fee plus expenses for each case. In 2007-08 payments amounted to just over £100,000. The ICR's current contract runs until 31 December 2010.

Jeanna Pearce, head of customer service at the commission, told the meeting the new two-level complaints procedure was popular with charities and had been embraced by commission staff after initial resistance.

She said 18 complainants had wanted reviews of their cases, and 12 had wanted to complain about the commission's standard of service. She said the commission's outcome review panel overturned 17 per cent of decisions and upheld 58 per cent. Twenty-five per cent were partially overturned.

Rosie Chapman, executive director of policy and effectiveness, told the board the commission had asked the Communities and Local Government department for permission to use £200,000 of its funding for the regulator's Faith and Social Cohesion Unit beyond October, which is when it is due to expire, to help fund the unit until March 2010.

Since its launch in October 2007, the unit has focused on encouraging mosques to improve their governance. "The discussions are taking an inordinately long time to come back because CLG's officials want to engage with their minister about it," said Chapman.

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