Civil servant to be the next chief executive of the Charity Commission

Third Sector understands that Helen Stephenson, a director at the Department for Education, and a former director of the Office for Civil Society, will be named successor to Paula Sussex

Helen Stephenson
Helen Stephenson

Helen Stephenson, a former director of the Office for Civil Society, is set to be announced as the next chief executive of the Charity Commission, Third Sector understands.

Stephenson is director of early years, child poverty and strategy at the Department for Education and has been chair of the childbirth and parenting charity NCT since 2015.

She was head of the OCS between January 2012 and October 2014, according to her LinkedIn profile, and before that was deputy director at the Cabinet Office, which housed the OCS until its move to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in July last year.

Before joining the Cabinet Office, Stephenson spent almost six years as head of strategic policy at the Big Lottery Fund.

She also worked at the Christian disability charity the Shaftesbury Society as a development manager before it merged with the fellow disability charity John Grooms to form Livability.

It is understood that Stephenson’s knowledge of the sector, her experience both of government across different administrations and of working for a major funder were factors in helping her to secure the role.

Stephenson's start date at the commission has not been set but she is expected to take up the role in July.

She will replace Paula Sussex, who joined the commission in June 2014 on a three-year term that she decided not to extend.

Stephenson’s time as chair of the NCT has not been without controversy. Last year, the charity’s former president and two other trustees were forced to resign from the board in the wake of an inquest into the death of a baby in an NCT-branded cot.

She is due to join the commission at a difficult time for the regulator. It has faced criticism over a variety issues in recent years, including the number of inquiries opened into Muslim charities and for its chair, William Shawcross, making negative remarks about charities in the national press.

The commission has also been pushing for the introduction of a levy on charities to help fund its running costs, a move that has been opposed by many charities and sector umbrella bodies. The commission’s budget has been frozen at £20.3m a year until 2020, which is roughly half the amount it received in 2008 in real terms.

In his introduction to the recruitment pack for the chief executive position, published in January, Shawcross said there had "never been a more exciting time to take this role, and we are looking for an exceptional person who will make the most of the opportunity".

He said the commission had made "huge progress" on its ambition to become a proactive, risk-based regulator.

The advert stated a salary of about £130,000 a year for the role, which is in line with what Sussex has been receiving.

Shawcross is due to stand down at the end of January after six years in the role.

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission declined to comment. Stephenson could not be reached for comment.

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