Commission chair calls for diversity in recruitment despite concerns around his appointment

Orlando Fraser has used his inaugural speech as Charity Commission chair to call on the sector to ensure its recruitment is “as diverse as possible” despite concerns over a lack of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in his own appointment.

Former Conservative general election candidate and lawyer Fraser was appointed earlier this year amid concern from MPs and charity sector leaders over a lack of diversity in his selection process.

Fraser was selected from a previous, failed, recruitment process that saw preferred candidate Martin Thomas resign days before taking up the post after it emerged he had been investigated by a charity for inappropriate behaviour.

The same shortlist was used to select Fraser. Charity leaders said this lacked diversity and demanded that the recruitment process be rerun.

In addition, MPs branded the recruitment process around his appointment as “slapdash and unimaginative” with Digital Culture, Media and Sport committee chair Julian Knight MP, criticising the government’s decision to fall back “on a shortlist which would seem to be so lacking in diversity”.

Despite concerns of a lack of diversity in his recruitment Fraser has told charities that “when recruiting new trustees, please work to make any recruitment drive as inclusive and diverse as possible, thus ensuring the continued excellence of the sector”.

Fraser, who stood in the 2005 general election for the Conservatives, has made the plea to charities around their recruitment in his inaugural speech this week in London.

Last month a report by Charities Aid Foundation and accountancy body ICAEW warned that a lack of diversity among charity boards “remains a challenge”.

According to the Charity Commission less than one in ten trustees are non-white. A small proportion are aged between 18 and 24 years old and less than a third are women.

Clampdown on ‘intentional wrongdoers’

Fraser also said in his speech that the regulator will deal “severely” with charities and trustees that are “intentional wrongdoers, the fraudsters, the extremists, the aggressors and the grossly negligent”. He said they are “poisoning charity status for everyone else”.

However, he pledged to be “more benign” when “problems are not material, when we have to remember that we are mostly dealing with volunteers”.

He added: “Rather than criticise an otherwise successful charity excessively for honest and reasonable mistakes, I will be keen for the Commission to focus on supporting trustees in getting it right, when things don’t go exactly to plan - as they often don’t.

“So, there will be occasions when the Commission will be very robust, but equally you will see a supportive side to us - it is a question of achieving the right overall balance over time between challenge and encouragement, and it is something to which I want the Commission to pay attention.”

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