Helen Stephenson, chief executive of the Charity Commission, has told MPs that since Kids Company collapsed in 2015, the regulator’s processes and advice have improved.
Stephenson appeared alongside William Shawcross, chair of the Charity Commission, before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee yesterday. This was the first time that the DCMS committee has had the opportunity to question the Commission since the regulator became part of the committee's remit. MPs asked about Kids Company, fundraising and extremist abuse of charities.
In the wake of Kids Company's collapse, the Charity Commission was criticised for not having engaged with the charity sooner. Damian Collins, chair of the committee, asked if the Commission was "still reliant on someone coming forward" to provide them with infomation about concerns over a specific charity.
Stephenson responded that she was "certain that the Commission has moved on significantly since then,” although she added that you could “never say never” when it comes to unexpected events.
She said the regulator has strengthened advice and guidance to auditors and advisers, as well as its guidance for trustees on reserves.
Stephenson added that people are now better aware of the “need to give us that information”, so the regulator would be “in a better place to spot charities with significant issues".
MPs also asked questions about fundraising. Shawcross said that the regulator does not directly oversee fundraising, which is the role of the Fundraising Regulator, but that the two organisations work closely together.
Paul Farrelly, Labour MP for Newcastle Under-Lyme, asked if “large charities had lost sight of how they should conduct themselves” in a “dog-eat -dog” environment.
Shawcross said he wouldn’t “endorse that description”, but that “big charities had taken their eye off the ball” and it had been “extremely damaging”.
He added that people should have seen an improvement and that they should report any concerns to the Fundraising Regulator.
Another committee member, Julian Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull, asked the Commission how they “make sure money is going where it should be going”.
He said he was concerned about “informal fundraising”, characterised by “passing of a collection tin” for causes “going to people overseas”, and added that making sure this was all genuine is an “important part of countering extremism”.
Shawcross said the countering extremism is a high priority for the regulator and something it takes very seriously.
“Whenever we hear of an allegation we do our best to investigate as quickly as possible,” he said.