Cost of living crisis set to increase scrutiny of charities, warns regulator

Charity Commission chief executive Helen Stephenson has warned charities that the cost-of-living crisis is set to increase public scrutiny of charity’s finances.

She said that “when people feel the pinch, when budgets are squeezed,” there is heightened public interest in “evidence that charities are what they say they are, and that people’s hard-earned money is being put to good use”.

“It is important that the public knows there is a regulator unafraid to step in when needed, willing to hold trustees and charities to account,” she added.

Stephenson issued the warning during an online speech at an event staged by Wales charity sector body WCVA.

Her speech also coincides with the announcement this week that inflation has risen to 9.1%, its highest rate in 40 years.

During her speech Stephenson said that the regulator’s recently appointed chair, former Conservative Party general election candidate Orlando Fraser, wanted to ensure the Commission is “fair, balanced and independent”.

She said: “We must be independent from governments, here and in Westminster, and we must be independent also from the sector we are charged with regulating.”

Another priority for the Commission is to support “trustees when they need us”, said Stephenson/

Figures to be revealed in next month’s Charity Commission annual report will show a rise in the number of calls from charities to the regulator for support, she said.

In 2020/21 its contact centre received more than 60,000 calls from charities.
“We know that trustees are enthusiastic, engaged, passionate – but our research suggests they are perhaps not always as aware of the governance basics as they should be,” she added.

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