Harry Iles, head of the Charity Commission's Wales Office

In a series on the regulator's senior staff, Iles talks to Paul Jump about why the Wales Office is so innovative

A role-playing game involving a charity that cares for injured dinosaurs is just one of the novel ideas Harry Iles has come up with since the Wales Office was set up five and a half years ago in response to Welsh devolution.

Iles describes Dino Rescue - or 'Achub Dino' in Welsh - as a "quirky idea" that helps to train potential trustees without frightening them off by putting too much emphasis on their liabilities. Dino Rescue takes a fun approach to ensuring trustees recognise, for example, the need to get their staff insured - in this case, against being bitten by a poorly stegosaurus. The Welsh-language version also sends out the message that the commission "is not an English-speaking authority".

The model has been used to train more than 300 trustees, but Iles has now decided this is a role for the country's 19 County Voluntary Councils. "So we've turned Dino Rescue into a CD package that we can use to train the trainers," he says. "It is available only in Wales at the moment, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was rolled out across England too."

Another Wales Office innovation, a constitution for small charities below the registration threshold, was extended to England earlier this year. It arose from the Wales Office's close working relationship with CVCs; Iles himself used to work as a community development worker at a CVC before joining the Wales Office at its inception.

"Hundreds of their officers help charities set up and give them training," he says. "We were aware that unless they were doing a good job we could be overwhelmed by issues. So we've given training in charity law to officers in every CVC.

"The small charities constitution came out of a combination of our legal knowledge and their community knowledge about how it needed to be clear and practical. This will go on to help tens of thousands of charities."

The Wales Office's inventiveness is also a result of its small size, according to Iles. Its nine Newport-based staff have a wider remit than many of their English colleagues and are, therefore, "inventive, confident and empowered".

Iles says the Wales Office is not isolated and enjoys strong relationships with colleagues across the commission. Nor, to his knowledge, has anyone ever called for the Wales Office to become independent; he takes this to indicate that Welsh people think the commission is doing a "really good job".

But Iles is not above a bit of Anglo-Welsh competition. He admits that Wales's 9,000 charities, mostly small, have a patchy compliance record. But he is hoping that his team's multi-faceted efforts to address that failing will soon see the average time it takes charities to submit their due documents become shorter in Wales than in England. "Well, you have to have an aim, don't you?" he laughs.

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