Charities need more preventative support to avoid scandals, regulator says

Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson has pledged to focus on preventative support to help charities avert high profile scandals that have blighted the sector in recent years.

She said the regulator “cannot just respond to catastrophes in the individual charities, or scandals impacting the sector – we must help charities prevent issues developing into crisis in the first place”.

She said that this support is set to include “thinking creatively about policy levers, as well as operational or investigatory interventions”.

“So expect to see some innovative work coming out of the Commission in the months and years ahead,” she added.

Stephenson was making the comments at the Institute of Charterted Accountants in England and Wales conference this week.

During the speech she stressed her commitment to “building a better, more professional” Charity Commission.

“That new expertise and increased capacity is helping to improve our assessment of, and response to, risks facing the sector, ensuring that we are as proactive as possible, and target our interventions where they can make the biggest difference,” she added.

Her comments follow a spate of high-profile scandals to impact on the charity sector in recent years.

Last year the Royal Institute of Blind People was rebuked by the regulator for placing vulnerable children in the charity’s care at risk of harm.

Also last year Save the Children was found to have failed staff over mismanagement of complaints of workplace harassment.

Her focus on supporting charities also comes in contrast to the tone of comments made by the regulator’s outgoing chair Baroness Stowell last year.

In October Stowell said charities needed “more humility and accountability” and accept their failures around transparency.

Two months later Stowell, who is a the former Conservative Party minister, angered voluntary sector leaders by urging charities to “leave party politics” out of their work.

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