Regulator will continue to focus on public trust, its communications director says

The Charity Commission will continue to have a focus on public trust in the sector, its director of communications has said, after its chair faced criticism for recent speeches.  

Baroness Stowell, chair of the commission, has used two addresses in the past month, including at the regulator’s annual public meeting, to talk about greater public trust and the need for greater accountability and transparency across the sector. 

During a panel discussion as part of the NPC’s online annual conference today, Paul Latham, the regulator’s director of communications and policy, was asked whether Stowell would “change the record” because many in the sector had become exasperated with her approach.

“Quite the contrary,” said Latham. “It’s about public expectation of charities and the approaches that the public would expect to see.”

Latham said the increase in support for the sector during the pandemic was a reminder that charities could do nothing without the public.

Chris Sherwood, chief executive of the RSPCA and another member of the panel, said he thought the sector had much bigger challenges to face and he would rather hear the chair’s thoughts on issues such as Brexit, climate change, and the potential for another pandemic.

“It would be more interesting if Stowell talked about the next shock, climate change is around the corner,” he said. 

“Talk about the next crisis, and the huge demand we’re going to see in demand for our services, the impact of trading in shops. I think there are bigger challenges we’re going to face.”

Latham said: “Trust and confidence are really important, we are the regulator so we’ll keep coming back to that. But I agree with Chris in terms of responding to this crisis and the one that follows.”

Another question asked whether some charities were being blamed for the poor fundraising practices of a small number of charities in the 2015 Olive Cooke case.

Latham said: “Nobody is putting the blame on those charities. The point is about remembering the public you are there for, and those beneficiaries and supporters. If you don’t have an eye on the expectation of the public who are funding charities , you risk losing long term support.”

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