Helen Stephenson speaking at the Charity Law Association Annual Conference 2017
The Charity Commission has warned that the services it provides could become slower and it will be less able to deal with “lower risk cases” without more funding.
Chief executive Helen Stephenson, who was speaking at the Charity Law Association Annual Conference yesterday, said her organisation is currently lobbying government for “transition funding” to help it deal with an increasing demand on services.
Stephenson said applications to register as a charity had increased by 40 per cent over the past four years while the Commission’s resources have decreased by almost 50 per cent since 2007.
She said: “I am struck by the significant pressures on the Commission’s finances. Our resources set against the increasing demand on our services are becoming more tightly stretched every day.
“If we are to continue to prioritise the issues and cases which present the highest risk to charities and to public trust, which I believe is right, then the logical conclusion is that our ability to deal with lower risk work will decline.
“The services we provide could become slower and charities may have to wait longer to be registered, have our consent to modernise, or adapt to the changing needs of their beneficiaries.”
As longer term funding solution, Stephenson proposed that the country’s largest 2000 charities should collectively contribute £7m a year to the regulator’s funding.
She said the Commission is currently drawing up proposals for such a system, which would require new legislation, and is due to consult with the sector on them next year.
Stephenson said: “We must start a sensible open debate with larger charities about making a modest contribution to costs of aspects of their regulation.
“I expect the debate with the sector to be a heated one but it’s one I believe we do need to have.”
One area where Stephenson said the Commission aims to improve is in its services for trustees.
She said the Commission “must be more available and accessible with advice and guidance for individual trustees”.
“We need to recognise that trusteeship is a national treasure and we should look after it, grow and enable it into the future,” she added.
Stephenson also talked about the Commission’s recently published annual return proposals for 2018, which drew concerns from some in the sector of their potentially creating a greater administrative burden for charities.
However, Stephenson said the changes the Commission is proposing “are intended to reduce the amount of information that smaller charities have to supply each year”.
Explaining said the information would be used for the Commission’s regulatory activity “but also to look at themes or issues that are emerging from the charity sector”.
“It is also the principle source of much of the information that is on display on the register of charities,” she said.
Stephenson added that the charity register had seen a year-on-year increase from eight million to 13 million views.