William Shawcross says charities must not hound the vulnerable

The Charity Commission chair says the spotlight is on charities and the commission will consult on charging larger charities for regulation

William Shawcross
William Shawcross

William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, has warned that vulnerable or older people must not be "hounded" by charities and has said the commission will be consulting on asking charities to pay for regulation.

Speaking at a Charity Commission public meeting in Southampton today, Shawcross said the media spotlight had become "fixed upon charities" after the Olive Cooke case and the collapse of Kids Company.

He said that, given the size and scale of the voluntary sector, it was not surprising that charities had come under the spotlight, which has uncovered "examples of practice which fit ill with people’s expectations".

He said that although such examples were few, there were "bad eggs" and a feeling that "the practice in some charities has strayed from their guiding values".

He said: "Now some have blamed the media, but this is to miss the point. The impact of the revelations of the last year have been felt so strongly because they struck a chord with the public.

"The stories found a receptive audience who thought in recent years that perhaps some charities had allowed their values to become obscured as they adopted the sharp practices of industry."

Shawcross said the commission had issued new guidance to trustees about fundraising.

"We have set out more clearly than ever what trustees must do to ensure their fundraising practice fits with the values that accompany charitable status," he said.

"Simply put, it cannot be right for vulnerable people, older people, generous people, to be hounded, on the telephone, through the letter box or in the street."

Shawcross said that adequate and stable funding of the commission was "the only way we can achieve an appropriate level of resource to regulate effectively".

He said: "We will therefore be consulting on the concept of asking charities to contribute to their regulator. This is common in other sectors, such as energy or the media."

He said small charities would not be affected by this and the commission would seek a contribution only from larger charities.

The move would be met by some resistance, Shawcross said, but he was "confident that charities will understand that they will only continue to enjoy public support if the public has confidence that charities are well regulated".

He said: "I call all of you here, and all beyond this place, to engage with the consultation and help us design a sound and fair system."

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