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18th May 2020

Under the bonnet of the Charity Commission

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The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the work of the Charity Commission. In response to questions posed by the Committee, the Commission has provided details of its current workloads and priorities. Details which are likely to be of interest to charities include:

  • The Commission is currently undertaking a review of its powers as regulator including how the current framework could be strengthened to meet public expectations. This review will produce recommendations for actions, possibly including legislative changes.
  • The Commission wants to remove “unnecessary” regulation of charities where possible. It is supportive of the Law Commission’s proposal to introduce a range of changes, such as reducing situations where charities need the Commission’s permission before they can act.
  • Following failings on the Commission’s part with regard to a complaint about a charity’s handling of staff grievances, it conducted a “wholesale review” of its approach to whistle-blowers. This resulted in clearer guidance for whistle-blowers as to how and when to raise concerns with the Commission, improved response processes, and the creation of a team of caseworkers responsible and trained to engage with whistle-blowers. A dedicated advice line has also been created.
  • After the introduction of a new online form in June 2019 for the reporting of serious incidents, the Commission is now receiving the correct information at the point of submission for approximately 90% of reports. Previously it was around 30% and on average three rounds of correspondence with the charity for more information was required. A dedicated team is ensuring there is greater expertise and consistency in the triage of serious incident reports. Charities receive an email acknowledgement on submission and a formal response within 10 calendar days.
  • The overall average time for new charities to be successfully registered is 67 days, but 10% are registered within 48 hours, a further 13% within 7 days, and a further 9% within 21 days.
  • The Commission reduced its total volume of work queued and awaiting allocation by 80% between January 2019 and the end of March 2020 (from 5,339 to just over 1,000), whilst also deciding a record 9,391 registration applications (an increase of 25%) and supporting an extra 6,000 charities by answering 12,000 extra calls to its contact centre.
  • The Commission has taken a more rigorous approach to high income charities not being transparent and is sending better and more regular reminders. The Commission engaged directly with 1,639 charities to bring them up to date with their filing requirements earlier this year.
  • In January 2020 the Commission received a record volume of Annual Return and Account submissions from charities and 98.8% of the sector’s income is accounted for as a result.
  • Latest research on public trust in the charitable sector, which has fallen significantly in recent years, shows a slight improvement but it has not recovered to 2014 levels.
  • The exemption for religious charities to register with the Commission is due to expire on 31 March 2021. The Commission is in discussions with the Office for Civil Society to explore an extension to this and further options to help make the situation more manageable.

To access the Commission's responses please click here.

For more information on this article please contact Stephen Cole on 01604 233233 or click here to email Stephen.