Sector will resolve the safeguarding issue, says NCVO chief

Sir Stuart Etherington tells the umbrella body's annual conference that the sector has dealt with difficult issues in the past, and will do so again

Sir Stuart Etherington (Photograph: NCVO/Rebecca Fennell)
Sir Stuart Etherington (Photograph: NCVO/Rebecca Fennell)

The charity sector has resolved many of the issues highlighted by the fundraising scandals and will deal with the safeguarding crisis in the same way, according to Sir Stuart Etherington.

Speaking at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual conference in central London this morning, the chief executive of the umbrella body said the recent scrutiny had been "difficult and intense" and had called into question not only charities’ trustworthiness, but also their basic competence.

But he added that this form of scrutiny was the new normal, and it was a challenge the sector should welcome.

"These questions go to the very heart of our existence," he said.

"But we have not shied away from difficult questions in the past, and we will not do so now." 

He said the sector had listened to the public’s concerns about fundraising and acted upon them.

"This is important – putting our own house in order shows a level of maturity," he said.

"I’m pleased to say there is a good story to tell here: new systems are working well and the new Fundraising Regulator is both responsive and sensible," said Etherington, whose government-commissioned review of the regulation of fundraising recommended the creation of the new regulator.

"Fundraisers, on whom so many of us depend, should also be commended for adapting quickly to these changes."

He said the sector had also responded to public concerns over senior executive pay, though he added that some charities still needed to follow the NCVO’s advice by publishing information about their top earners and why trustees had agreed to pay them that particular salary.

He said the sector should move the debate on to be just as concerned about low pay.

Etherington also dismissed the idea that there were too many charities as "nonsense".

He said: "If anything we need more charities and more social enterprises, more cooperatives and more mutuals.

"We need a stronger civil society that is confident in speaking up, that is independent from government and business.

"And I am convinced that people want to get involved. I am convinced that people in this country want to do good things; that they want to make a difference. But I also hear that at times we make it difficult for them. That we get in the way."

It was important not to view the past year through the prism of the last few weeks, he said.

"Yes, we have challenges, but we continue to deliver," Etherington said. "We continue to make a difference and we continue to be worthy of the public’s support and trust."

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