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Former ACEVO boss calls for inquiry into charities 

13 May 2020 News

Sir Stephen Bubb

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted problems with how charities operate, according to Sir Stephen Bubb, the former chief executive of ACEVO.

Bubb wrote in today’s Times that the crisis has exposed the weaknesses of too many charities, and called for a “shake-up” of the sector.

“This pandemic has exposed weakness in our economy and society and thus the need for a national inquiry into what went wrong.

“The charity sector must also reflect on how this crisis has exposed the need for reform and change. It is clear that charities need a wide-ranging inquiry too,” he wrote.

He highlighted how the loss of income for charities means it will not be just businesses that go bust, but “we will lose good charities too.”

Bubb is currently the director of the Charity Futures think tank.

Last year, Bubb announced plans to build an Oxford Institute of Charity (OIC) after three years of discussions with the university. Charity Futures and New College Oxford will collaborate on the new institute.

'We need a serious rethink'

Speaking to Civil Society News, Bubb said that the OIC has been looking at how it might establish an independent national inquiry.

Bubb said that the charity sector can be defensive in its attitude to reform and that the inquiry would therefore need to be independent. 

“It would be a whole sector review, not just looking at the weakness but the strengths and how to replicate them. What makes a really good charity and how to support that,” he explained.

The inquiry would look at how to reform charity law, the regulator, collaboration, the lack of charity infrastructure and how charities report on their impact.

Bubb said: “I think we have got to think seriously about the relationship with government. It is appalling, and in my view that is not a good thing for the government or for the sector.”

He said that government could need to play a more active role in helping to reform the sector, although this might go “against the grain” for charities as they need to be able to speak truth to power.

The OIC is currently seeking a single global endowment of £30m to deliver a sustainable income for the new body.

“The OIC will conduct high quality research in areas where there currently is none; provide a recognised global forum where ideas relating to charity can be discussed; fill the current gap in the availability of practical, soundly-based programmes which will deliver change in the sector; and help create undergraduate and post-graduate teaching, as well as executive development, all to high academic standards, where there are also gaping holes in provision,” its website reads.

For more news, interviews, opinion and analysis about charities and the voluntary sector, sign up to receive the Civil Society News daily bulletin here.


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