The House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has recommended changes to commissioning practices, improvements to charity governance and better partnership between charities and other sectors, in a wide-ranging report.
It also warned that it has “grave concerns” about the Charity Commission’s proposal to charge charities.
In its report, Stronger charities for a stronger society, published today (Sunday 26 March), the committee highlights how significant changes have impacted on the charity sector in recent years and makes a number of recommendations to strengthen governance at charities.
“Charities face greater operational and environmental pressures than ever before,” the report says, “but their principle is enduring and charities have always helped society through periods of upheaval.”
There are also suggestions about reforming the funding environment to make it easier and to improve the relationship between charities, government and the regulator.
Must be better supported
Baroness Pitkeathley, chair of the committee said: “Charities are the lifeblood of society. They play a fundamental role in our civil life and do so despite facing a multitude of challenges. Yet for them to continue to flourish, it is clear that they must be supported and promoted.”
She said she hoped the report would “help charities have confidence in themselves and what they do” and said that its recommendations could lead to measures that will “level the playing field” for smaller charities.
She stressed the importance of the advocacy role for charities which has “perhaps felt under threat in recent times”. And she said that charities needed more consideration when laws were made.
“We recommend the government shows more regard for charities when bringing forward proposals,” she said.
She praised the sector its ability to innovate but said “that can be threatened or stifled by the constant search for funding”. The report makes a number of recommendations about reform to commissioning practices to help small charities.
The report also highlights the importance of providing more support and training for both trustees and executive teams in charities, particularly when it comes to technology, and urged umbrella bodies to think about how they could do more.
The committee received 184 written submissions and took oral evidence from 52 witnesses. It also visited the Commission and held three roundtable events outside of London.
The government must respond to the report. The Charity Commission has responded to some aspects already but is expected to respond in greater detail at a later date.
William Shawcross, chairman of the Charity Commission, said: “This report rightly demonstrates the vital role that charities play in our society, and why good governance and strong leadership is so important. We are pleased that the Committee recognises the progress the Commission has made in being a more effective regulator and we will study with interest the recommendations that have been made to strengthen our sector.”
Paula Sussex, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “Good governance is the first building block for any successful charity and the report makes a number of practical suggestions as to how we can meet the current challenges. Our renewed focus on enablement, which includes our commitment to working more with partners in the charitable sector, is fully aligned with these suggestions. But this report, and the challenges charities are facing, require us all now to grasp the nettle and take real ownership to realise substantive and lasting change."