28 June 2011
Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, says changes at the regulator will mean that charities will need to become more independent and more self-reliant.
Speaking at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators Charity Governance conference, Sam Younger said that the Commission would focus on providing excellent online guidance that helps trustees make up their own minds as to what is right for their charities.
He said that it would be less involved, in future, in providing one-to-one advice that merely provided reassurance that the charity had correctly applied the Commission’s guidance.
Sam Younger said that this, in turn, could help transform charities’ view of the Commission and its relationship with the public:
“I hope that, over the course of the next few years, we’ll see charities viewing good governance not as a hurdle to clear, but as an opportunity to show the public they’re accountable, they’re trustworthy, they’re a wise investment. This is clearly what the public expects. Our consultation revealed that, while people have great trust in charities, they demand a lot in return: good governance, sound management and absolute probity. The Commission has taken that message on board, and my advice to charities would be: do the same. Think of your relationship with the public as a contract in good faith, not as a relationship of unconditional love”.
During his speech on Tuesday 28 June, Sam Younger also urged charity umbrella bodies to help charities recognise the importance of accountability:
“The charity sector as a whole can make a contribution to good governance. For instance, I would like to see late filing of documents among charities becoming the sector equivalent of drink driving: something society may have regarded as excusable in the past, but which is in fact potentially hugely damaging. Not just to the charity in question, but to the wider environment in which it operates. I’m not, of course, suggesting failing to file on time is as dangerous as drink driving. But I do think there’s a role for sector bodies and umbrella groups to work towards a similar sort of culture change. To help us at the Commission get the message across that accountability is not an individual choice, it’s a duty that follows from charitable status. ”.
Sam Younger also updated the conference on the Commission’s strategic review, explaining the rationale behind the regulator’s new draft structure and acknowledging the impact of the review on staff members:
“The draft structure is designed to help us meet our strategic priorities despite the reductions to our resources. Our activity will be split into 11 functions reporting directly to me, consisting of 4 flexible, multi-disciplinary teams dealing with all but the most serious cases, and seven further functions leading on specific areas, such as Registration, Policy, and Investigations and Enforcement. Our new structure aims to keep the management hierarchy as flat as possible, push maximum responsibility to the operating level and ensure value for money. We will keep working across four sites, because the impact of closing one or more offices will have too great an impact on our finances, our workforce and our performance.
I’m acutely aware that we are entering the most challenging phase yet for staff members, who are now being consulted on what the changes might mean for their roles and their futures. As the board and I have said from the beginning, we hope to be able to achieve the reduction in staffing through voluntary means if at all possible. I know that no amount of consultation makes the uncertainty our staff are facing any easier and that this is a tough time for many.
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