Commission chief executive recognised in King’s Birthday Honours List 2024

17 Jun 2024 News

Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission

The chief executive of the Charity Commission has been recognised in King Charles’ 2024 Birthday Honours List.

The list recognises individuals who have had “an immeasurable impact” on the lives of people across the UK, many of whom are community champions, social entrepreneurs, scientists, health workers, and volunteers.

This year, 1,077 people received honours, a drop from the 1,171 individuals who were recognised last year

Some 948 people were selected for the British Empire Medal (BEM), Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) and Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) awards.

Just under half of the recipients are women (509) while 10% come from an ethnic minority background.

Stephenson appointed DBE

Helen Stephenson, who has led the Charity Commission since 2017 and is stepping down next month, was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE).

The government said Stephenson was “instrumental in ensuring meaningful change in how charities are governed and held to account, following safeguarding and other scandals in 2015-18”. 

“She has sought closer, more regular ties with sector bodies, has overseen a firmer grip on casework, with historic backlogs managed down and wrongdoing tackled head on. 

“Under her leadership, the Commission has supported trustees to run their charities well with clear and simple guidance. 

“It now answers 12,000 more calls a year, helping 6,000 more charities. By putting the public interest front and centre, public trust in the charity sector has improved thus enabling the ongoing sustainability of the sector.”

Board evaluator Ffion Llywelyn, philanthropist Hannah Rothschild and actress Imelda Staunton, who have all been involved in charities as either chair, patron and/or ambassador, were also appointed DBE. 

Meanwhile, Roger Wright, who became CEO of Aldeburgh Music in 2014 and led the merger of Britten Pears Foundation and Snape Maltings (formerly Aldeburgh Music) to form Britten Pears Arts in 2020, became a Knights Bachelor.

RNLI’s chief executive made CBE

The youngest person to be recognised in the list is Shamza Butt, a 20-year-old who received a BEM for her work as a member of the National Citizens’ Service Trust Youth Voice Forum.

Harold Jones is the oldest recipient, who at 100 years old received a BEM after fundraising for motor neurone disease charities and the Sutton Coldfield community.

Eight staff and volunteers were recognised for their contributions to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), while outgoing chief executive Mark Dowie was made Commander of the British Empire (CBE).

Dowie, who joined RNLI as chief executive in 2019 and is stepping down this month, said: “I’m very honoured and humbled to be included in the King’s Birthday Honours but see this as recognition for all the sacrifice, courage and commitment given by the RNLI’s one crew over the last few tumultuous years.  

“Leading the RNLI has been an enormous privilege and I now intend to return to volunteering with the RNLI as a vice president and as a fundraising team member at my home station.”

Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of Karma Nirvana and a human-rights activist, also received a CBE.

Other honours

Other charity leaders such as Alison Baverstock, who established Reading Force in 2011, received an MBE for charitable services. 

Baverstock was recognised for services to families in the British Armed Forces community.

Deborah Pezzani, who set up Teens Unite in 2007, received a BEM for services to teenagers and young adults with cancer. 

At the British Red Cross, three staff and volunteers were recognised for their service to the charity.

Retail director Paul Thompson received an MBE while emergency response volunteer David Kennedy-Harding and volunteer vice president for Surrey Lynda Jones received a BEM.

Thompson has served with the British Red Cross for over 30 years. Under his leadership, the charity’s retail operations have raised over £414m to support its work in the UK and worldwide. 

Kennedy-Harding has volunteered with the British Red Cross for 64 years, accumulating over 262,000 hours on call as an emergency responder.

And Jones has volunteered with the British Red Cross for 60 years, supporting the organisation through fundraising, ambulance duties, providing first aid at local events and working in local hospitals. 

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