The new chief executive of the Charity Commission has said she wants to focus more on advice and services to charity trustees, and hopes to use money raised from charging the sector to do it.
In an interview with Governance & Leadership magazine, published this week, Stephenson says she believes government should fund the regulator’s compliance and investigation work, which prevents wrongdoing.
But she suggests the sector itself should pay for advice and ‘enabling work’ – the low-level permissions and schemes which the regulator is also responsible for.
She says the Commission’s recent research into trusteeship, Taken on Trust, found that trustees wanted a huge amount of advice and support, and that other than each other, the regulator was the only source they trusted.
“It’s crucial for us to be the kind of regulator that charities deserve,” Stephenson says. “It’s undoubtedly right to ask the taxpayer to fund compliance and investigation. But what Taken on Trust showed is that there is a huge need in the sector for more enabling work. That’s what we want to expand.”
Stephenson says the Commission will not get any more money from government, and she will press ahead with the focus on charging charities that was introduced by William Shawcross, the outgoing chair.
“We’re unlikely to improve our financial settlement for several years yet,” she says.
She says the process of consulting has gone more slowly than she would like.
In order to launch a consultation the regulator must get various permissions from HM Treasury and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but the referendum and election effectively derailed this process.
“We’ve gone back to the beginning of the queue,” Stephenson says. “We aren’t able to get the discussion going.”