Trust and poor practice among main priorities in new Charity Commission strategy

The strategy, published today, says the regulator will do all it can to 'ensure charities show they are being true to their own purposes... and meet the high expectations demanded by the public'

The Charity Commission will use its position to call out poor practice in the sector and to prioritise raising public trust in charities, according to its new strategy.

The strategy, published today, says the commission’s purpose will be to "ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society".

It says the commission will prioritise public trust in the charity sector after number of recent scandals that have hit public confidence.

Recent figures from the commission have shown that public trust is at its lowest level since 2005.

"To be the effective regulator that the public demands and the sector requires, the commission must do all it can to ensure that charities show they are being true to their own purposes, can demonstrate the difference they’re making and meet the high expectations demanded by the public," the strategy says.

"All charities are custodians of what it means to be a charity in the eyes of the public, and so are we."

A further challenge set by the commission is to demonstrate that its approach is delivering greater public benefit.

The regulator warns in the strategy that it does not "have all the resources necessary" to fulfil its ambitions, which include better use of technology and sharing of good practice across the charity sector.

The commission has repeatedly said it will launch a consultation on charging charities to fund the regulator’s work, but postponed any consultation until after the commission had set out its new strategy and purpose.

The strategy sets out five strategic objectives, the first being to hold charities to account.

It says that although the commission’s regulatory work focuses on compliance with the law, it should also use its position as a regulator and its leadership role in the sector to draw attention to behaviour that could jeopardise public confidence in the sector.

"In future we will highlight the responsibility that charities and trustees bear to pay attention to how they meet their purpose, not just that they do," the strategy says.

"We will use our voice more strongly to encourage the behaviour that people expect of charities."

A second objective will focus on dealing with wrongdoing and harm at charities, including by giving charities the tools they need to protect themselves against abuse and mismanagement.

The commission will therefore try to become less reactive and more "driven by risk", including by making sure no complaints are ignored and using technology to handle more cases and conclude them quicker.

The commission will also enshrine informing public choice as a strategic objective, mainly by ensuring that charities’ data is accurate, up to date and relevant.

This information, the strategy document says, should be "truly open" and easy for the public to access and analyse.

A fourth strategic objective will focus on giving charities the understanding and tools they need to succeed, including by encouraging collaboration and mergers in the sector and by helping to share good practice.

Charity Commission guidance will therefore become more prescriptive, rather than proscriptive, and aim to "fit with different charities’ needs".

The final strategic objective will focus on keeping charities relevant for today’s world, and the commission will "aim to shape the agenda" in government and in public.

The strategy says: "We will speak confidently and authoritatively across government, in parliament and on charity matters as the expert regulator, informed by our experience and our data, with the intention of supporting a stronger charity sector."

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