Co-founder of nfpSynergy calls for separate Welsh charity regulator

Joe Saxton will outline his reasons at the gofod3 conference today

Joe Saxton
Joe Saxton

Joe Saxton, co-founder of the voluntary sector research organisation nfpSynergy, has called for Wales to have its own charity regulator.

Saxton, a former chair of the Institute of Fundraising, said the move would give Welsh charities a stronger voice, boost fundraising and be a natural part of devolution.

"As long as the regulator regime for Wales is so pinned to the coat-tails of England, it's hard to see the Welsh charity sector flourishing as powerfully as it might," said Saxton, who will outline his views at today's gofod3 conference in Cardiff organised by the Wales Council for Voluntary Action.

Charity regulators for Scotland and Northern Ireland were established in 2003 and 2013 respectively.

But the Charity Commission for England and Wales, a non-ministerial department of the UK government, continues to regulate charities in both countries.

Saxton said this meant Wales got a "poor deal" and he was surprised there hadn't been more of a clamour for change.

He has drawn up 10 reasons why Wales needs its own charity regulator.

Number one on his list is recognising that Wales is different from England and that charity regulation should reflect its needs.

Also on his list are that having a Welsh regulator would give the Welsh charity sector a distinct identity, would enable more sector-specific research in the country to be conducted and would increase fundraising, because research showed people had more trust in charities once regulation felt closer to home and was more visible.

Having a regulator accountable to the Welsh government, rather than the UK government, would be more likely to make the sector flourish, he said.

Saxton claimed that the Charity Commission produced little Wales-specific content and had no strategy for Wales beyond the "token" requirement of having one board member with expertise and knowledge of the country.

"The logic of a devolved charity regulator is strong," he said. "The charity sectors in each country are different and require a different style of regulation: that is as true for Wales as it is for Scotland and Northern Ireland."

A commission spokeswoman said she did not know if any board members spoke Welsh and was unable to reveal whether any lived in Wales.

She added: "Engaging with and understanding the work of charities in Wales is important to our work and we have had a permanent office in Wales since 2004.

"Furthermore, we hold a public meeting in Wales each year, speak at a number of wider events and work closely with representative bodies. We also seek to engage positively with the Welsh government and assembly members on matters of shared importance."

The spokeswoman said its casework, digital and telephony services, and trustee guidance were all available in Welsh.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Culture, Media & Sport said: "Wales shares the same legal jurisdiction as England, so establishing a separate Welsh Charity Commission would lead to unnecessary duplication, bureaucracy, inconsistency and confusion."

But Anna Nicholl, director of strategy and sector development at the WCVA, said it would appreciate a stronger regulatory presence in Wales and would be taking the issue up with the commission in April.

"It's 20 years since devolution and lots of things have changed, so this is an important question and I'm pleased it's being raised," said Nicholl.

She said the WCVA had a good relationship with the commission but questioned whether it had a detailed dialogue with the Welsh government. If a separate regulator wasn't created, she said, the commission should at least set up a Welsh advisory group.

A Welsh government spokeswoman said it had "no plans to establish a separate charity regulator for Wales".

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