New Charity Commission chair is out of touch on key sector issues, Sir Stephen Bubb says

Acevo chief executive criticises the views of William Shawcross on state funding for charities and face-to-face fundraising

Sir Stephen Bubb
Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, has accused William Shawcross, the new chair of the Charity Commission, of being out of touch after he criticised charities that rely on state funding and expressed opposition to face-to-face fundraising.

In a speech at last week’s Acevo annual conference, Shawcross said that charities "should not become the junior partner in the welfare state" and must remain independent from government. He said that some charities had become "dependent on the state" and that most members of the public believed that charities should be "funded from private donations, not public funds".

When he appeared before MPs on the Public Administration Select Committee on Tuesday, Shawcross said that face-to-face fundraising was "a blight on the charitable sector".

Writing in his blog, Bubb said: "He is right to warn that in our work our main priority remains our beneficiaries and our mission. However, delivering public services for beneficiaries on contract does not make charities dependent, nor need it mean mission drift."

Bubb said that many charities, including Action for Children and Turning Point, continued to be critical of government despite the largest part of their funding coming from the state. "The notion that these organisations are dependent little satrapies is ludicrous," he wrote.

"Worryingly, these comments appear to suggest either that welfare services should be provided by the state itself or that charities should rely on private donations to do their work. Even more worryingly, in recent pronouncements the Charity Commission chair has said he rejects face-to-face fundraising, despite the evidence this raises millions for charities."

At a time when charitable giving was down and demand for services increasing, said Bubb, "how exactly does Mr Shawcross want us to deal with these realities?"

Bubb said that it was "entirely right and proper that the state provides, through general taxation, for the sick and old to be supported". He said: "The British welfare state is a glory, not a problem. But in delivering that welfare state, the state does not also have to deliver those services itself. It is increasingly clear that charities can do this better and entirely in line with charitable mission."

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