Charities overtake police to become second most trusted sector

The charity sector has escaped a marked decline in public trust across a raft of professions and groups in UK society.

The public is more cynical about all professions and groups in society than last year, research has found.

But the fall is far less prominent among charities, with the police and politicians taking the brunt of heightened public concern around trust.

Doctors remain the most trusted profession with charity workers now in second place, overtaking the police, which was second last year and now drops to third.

The word of the “ordinary man or woman in the street”, charities and banks have seen the smallest decline in trust.

Police, government ministers, MPs and local councils have seen the steepest.

This follows a raft of negative headlines around the conduct of the police, including accusations of racism.

Meanwhile, under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership trust in government and politicians has eroded significantly. This follows a spate of scandals, including fines for Johnson and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak for breaching Covid lockdown rules.

The findings have been revealed in the Charity Commission’s annual survey on public trust in charities and other groups across society.

It found that there have been three major trust crises over the last 14 years. From 2014 to 2020 charities were impacted by a significant erosion of trust, through scandals involving high pressure fundraising and safeguarding concerns.

The Commission’s report says the current crises involve the police, which dates from 2018 to 2022 and this year’s capitulation in trust for government ministers.

Recovery in trust for charities ‘has plateaued’

The Commission warns that the recovery in trust for charities “has plateaued”

“Our polling shows that the political establishment and the police have suffered significant declines in trust, roughly on par with the trust crisis that charities experienced after 2014,” states the Commission’s report.

“All other parts of society have experienced falls in trust of varying degrees. In this context, charities are faring as well as might be hoped, but historic trust levels remain elusive.”

It adds that the charity sector “still struggles to shrug off lingering doubts about the way it uses the funds that are entrusted to it”.

This scepticism is “particularly acute” among poorer people living in urban areas.

The public back charities demonstrating the impact of their work, as a way of improving trust levels, according to the Commission.

“As well as wanting a more proactive approach from charities in communicating how money is spent, members of the public also stress the importance of demonstrating impact,” adds the regulator’s report.

“Those who make regular donations or contributions to charity are more likely to trust the charity in question if they are given clear, regular updates about the impact their support is having.

Public backs charities’ voice amid culture wars

The public also back charities involvement in social and cultural debates, according to the Commission’s report.

Four in ten think charities should respond to social debates and half back charities wanting to “push for change” in society.

However, there is “no strong consensus” around charities’ involvement in debates, according to the Commission.

It points out that three in ten think charities should not get involved in society and culture debates and the same proportion thing charities should focus on their needs of their beneficiaries rather than “pushing for change”.

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