Trustee-finding service 'too focused on London'

Charity Trustee Networks' Trusteefinder service comes under scrutiny during Commons debate

Angela Smith, Minister for the Third Sector, has pledged to look into the geographical spread of trustee vacancies listed on the Charity Trustee Networks online trustee-finding service.

The issue was raised by Tom Levitt, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Voluntary and Community Sector, during a House of Commons debate on charity trusteeship on Monday.

Levitt praised the role of trustees, calling them "keepers of a charity's soul", but wanted to know what the Government was doing "to support, recruit and retain them".

He commended CTN's Trusteefinder tool, which lists vacancies across England and is funded partly by the Office of the Third Sector. But he noted that although it listed more than 100 trustee vacancies within five miles of Westminster, he found only six in his home town of Buxton.

He said the high number of vacancies in London could reflect "the low awareness and possibly low prestige that the trustee role enjoys, as well as a lack of volunteers ready to fill the vacancies". The low number in Buxton reflected a lack of awareness of the Trusteefinder service, he said.

Smith promised to look in the geographical spread of vacancies. She said nearly 1,500 searches were carried out every month on Trusteefinder and that almost all users said they would use it again.

She acknowledged that more needed to be done to promote trusteeship, and suggested that the 2011 European Year of the Volunteer would offer a good opportunity. She also pledged to promote trusteeship within the Cabinet Office's volunteering scheme for civil servants.

She agreed with Levitt that trustee boards needed to become more diverse. "In many ways this is an issue for the sector itself, but the Government's role is to provide support to the sector in this area, and we want to continue to do so," she said.

She urged potential trustees who could not afford expensive induction courses to read the Charity Commission's CC3 - The Essential Trustee guidance.

Rodney Buse, chair of Charity Trustee Networks, welcomed Levitt's comments about the rewards of being a trustee. "There is so much more we should be doing to support trustees and potential trustees and we are pleased that Trusteefinder has been acknowledged as valuable resource," he said.

"We are encouraged by the minister's response, which recognises that trusteeship is an important part of volunteering and should be reflected in future initiatives."




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