Voluntary sector leaders join independence panel

Dame Anne Owers, chair of Christian Aid, will chair the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, which features Nicholas Deakin, Sir Bert Massie, Lord Hodgson and Andrew Hind

Dame Anne Owers will chair the panel
Dame Anne Owers will chair the panel

Eight voluntary sector leaders have been appointed to a body that will examine the independence of charities.

The Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector will consider threats to independence, such as the growing use of charities to deliver public services, and publish a paper each year outlining its concerns and making recommendations.

It has been established by Civil Exchange, a new voluntary sector think tank, and the Baring Foundation, which runs a grants programme called Strengthening the Voluntary Sector for projects that promote independence. The foundation is providing £99,000 to support the initiative over five years.

Dame Anne Owers, chair of Christian Aid and former Chief Inspector of Prisons, will act as chair.

Other members include: Nicholas Deakin, who chaired the influential Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, which reported in 1996; Andrew Hind, former chief executive of the Charity Commission;  and Lord Hodgson, president of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and chair of the Big Society Deregulation Task Force.

The panel is expected to publish a paper next week to instigate debate. This will be put out to consultation for two months before the panel reconvenes in October to write its first annual statement.

"The changing nature of funding relationships is giving people cause for concern," said Daniel Harris, managing director of the agency DHA Communications, which is a founding partner of Civil Exchange.

"There are also concerns about more immediate issues, such as cuts."

The panel’s annual state-of-independence paper will include barometers indicating the strength of concerns in key areas. It will also include case studies on issues such as government programmes.

The panel will meet twice a year. Members are unpaid but will be eligible for an honorarium of £500 each year to give to a nominated charity.

Panel members:

- Chair: Dame Anne Owers, chair of Christian Aid and former Chief Inspector of Prisons

- Nicholas Deakin, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Birmingham University and chair of the Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, which reported in 1996

- Andrew Hind, trustee of the Baring Foundation and former chief executive of the Charity Commission

- Lord Hodgson, president of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and chair of the Big Society Deregulation Task Force

- Sir Bert Massie, former Commissioner for the Compact

- Julia Unwin, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation

- Louise Whitfield, associate solicitor at Pierce Glynn and an expert in public law

- Nick Wilkie, chief executive, London Youth

- Adviser: Matthew Smerdon, deputy director, the Baring Foundation.

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