Helen Stephenson 'thrilled, humbled and a little bit nervous' to take up commission role

She will become chief executive of the Charity Commission on 18 July, succeeding Paula Sussex

Helen Stephenson
Helen Stephenson

Helen Stephenson, the next chief executive of the Charity Commission, has said she is "thrilled, humbled and just a little bit nervous" to take up her new role.

Her appointment, first revealed by Third Sector, was confirmed this afternoon by the regulator. 

Stephenson, who is director of early years and childcare at the Department for Education, is a former director of the Office for Civil Society and chair of the parenting and childbirth charity NCT

She will take over on 18 July from Paula Sussex, who did not seek to extend her three-year contract for the role.

Stephenson is a member of the advisory council for the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and a board member of the Big Society Trust, which oversees the social investors Big Society Capital and Access – the Foundation for Social Investment.

A commission spokesman said she would be relinquishing both roles before she takes up her position at the regulator, which is on a four-year fixed-term contract.

An NCT spokesman confirmed that Stephenson, who has been chair of the charity since September 2015, had stood down with immediate effect. 

In a statement announcing her appointment at the commission, Stephenson said: "The charitable sector plays a crucial role in our national life and I am delighted to be joining the Charity Commission at this important time.

"It is an honour to be leading the dedicated and talented team at the commission and Paula is handing over an organisation that is in excellent shape, well equipped to meet the challenges of the future. I look forward to working with the commission’s staff to continue the ambitious plans we have set."

She later tweeted a link to the commission's announcement of her appointment and said:

The appointment of Stephenson, who was appointed CBE in 2014 for services to civil society, was welcomed by sector figures.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of charity leaders body Acevo, said the appointment showed the regulator was listening to the concerns of the voluntary sector by appointing someone with significant experience of it.

But she said she hoped the appointment would mark the start of a more constructive relationship between the commission and the sector.

"Faced with unprecedented demand on their services and stagnant income, charities need a regulator that supports them to operate to the best of their ability," said Browning. "We look forward to working with Helen to fulfil this vision of a stronger sector."

Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said Stephenson was "an outstanding appointment, and one I know many in the charity sector will welcome wholeheartedly".

He said: "Helen has excellent understanding of the modern charity sector, as well as intimate knowledge of the inside workings of government. She also brings leadership and policy capability to the commission at a critical time for the regulator and the sector."

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and a former head of the Office of the Third Sector, which became the Office for Civil Society, said: "Helen has all the right experience in government, of the sector and as a funder – she’s exactly what the Charity Commission needs to build on the excellent work that Paula has done, and to support the sector as it works to restore public trust and confidence in charity."

William Shawcross, chair of the regulator, said he and the commission board were confident that Stephenson would be an outstanding leader.

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