The Charity Commission has announced the appointment of Helen Stephenson as its next chief executive.
She will join on 18 July. She succeeds Paula Sussex, who has been chief executive since 2014 and decided not seek a second term.
Stephenson has been director of early years and childcare at the Department for Education since 2014, and has extensive experience of senior leadership across the public and voluntary sectors. She previously served as director and deputy director of the Office for Civil Society, and has filled senior roles at the Big Lottery Fund and the Shaftesbury Society.
She said: “The charitable sector plays a crucial role in our national life and I am delighted to be joining the Charity Commission at this important time.
“It is an honour to be leading the dedicated and talented team at the Commission and Paula is handing over an organisation that is in excellent shape, well equipped to meet the challenges of the future. I look forward to working with the Commission’s staff to continue the ambitious plans we have set.”
William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, said: “It is wonderful that Helen is joining us. The board and I are confident that she will be an outstanding leader and will build on the progress we have made in recent years. I know our excellent staff will give Helen a warm welcome and I look forward to working with her.”
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said: “This is an outstanding appointment, and one I know many in the charity sector will welcome wholeheartedly. Helen has excellent understanding of the modern charity sector, as well as intimate knowledge of the inside workings of government. She also brings leadership and policy capability to the Commission at a critical time for the regulator and the sector. I look forward to working closely with Helen in her new role”.
Baroness Jill Pitkeathley, chair of the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities and former co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Charities and Volunteering, said: “Helen has a wealth of experience across the charity sector and within government, under different administrations, and is in my view admirably suited to lead the Charity Commission.
"I’ve worked closely with Helen over the last 20 years, first when I chaired the New Opportunities Fund which became the Big Lottery Fund where she was head of policy, then during her time at the Office for Civil Society while I chaired the Third Sector Advisory Body, and recently as a member of my board at the Big Society Trust. I wish her very well in her new role.”
Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “This is an excellent appointment. Helen has all the right experience in government, of the sector and as a funder – she’s exactly what the Charity Commission needs to build on the excellent work that Paula has done, and to support the sector as it works to restore public trust and confidence in charity.”
Vicky Browning, chief executive of charity leaders’ network Acevo said: “This appointment shows that the Charity Commission is listening to the concerns of the sector. Helen Stephenson has extensive experience of the third sector, first working for the Big Lottery Fund then at the Office for Civil Society, as well as sitting on various trustee boards. This significant experience is precisely what Acevo and others have been calling for over recent years.
“We hope this appointment marks the start of a more constructive relationship between the Charity Commission and the sector. Faced with unprecedented demand on their services and stagnant income, charities need a regulator which supports them to operate to the best of their ability. We look forward to working with Helen to fulfil this vision of a stronger sector.”