Press release: Overwhelming support for new powers for commission

The public and charities overwhelmingly support new powers for the Charity Commission to regulate charities, new independent research published today shows. As new legislation to strengthen the regulator’s powers is before Parliament, four-fifths (83%) of the public and over nine-tenths (92%) of charities support new powers being introduced for the commission.

The Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill was introduced in the House of Lords on 28 May. The Bill includes a number of new powers for the commission that will help close existing legal loopholes and tackle abuse. The Bill will strengthen the commission’s ability to tackle the most serious forms of abuse; making a significant difference in high-risk cases.

There is strong consensus that the commission’s regulatory approach is the right one; the research shows that a large proportion of the general public (72%) and a similar proportion of charities (75%) believe that charities are regulated effectively.

Charities and the public meanwhile are divided over the question of funding for charity regulation. The majority of the public (69%) believe charity regulation should be partly or fully funded by charities themselves; while a significant minority (23%) of charities agree, the majority (68%) believe charity regulation should be funded entirely through general taxation, a view shared by a quarter (25%) of the general public. Currently the commission is fully funded by the tax payer, but has had it budget cut in real terms by 50% since 2007, from £31.7 million to £21.4 million to regulate 164,000 charities.

Other key findings in the research include:

  • nearly all (98%) of the public regard the role of the commission as important
  • most charities (79%) and the public (81%) trust the commission to be fair and impartial when assessing charities
  • trust and confidence in the commission is high – when asked to rate their trust and confidence in the commission on a scale of 0-10, where 10 means they trust it completely and 0 means they do not trust at all, the general public gave an average score of 6.0
  • more than two-thirds of the public (69%) and charities (also 69%) agree the commission takes action against charities which break the rules
  • only 4% of members of the public report having an issue or problem with a charity in the past 12 months

William Shawcross, Chairman of the Charity Commission said:

This research provides clear evidence that there is overwhelming public support for the role of the commission. The public and our stakeholders are confident in our effectiveness and support the way we approach our work – a significant boost for any regulator.

The sector and the public also recognise the need for new powers for the commission and I welcome their support as the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill is being debated in Parliament. This is a vital piece of legislation if we are to have the powers that we need to stop individuals abusing charities.

This research also shows a majority of the public would like to see charities make a contribution to their own regulation, with a significant minority of the sector agreeing. We must look into all the options for placing the commission’s funding on a more secure footing and I want to continue the discussions I have begun with senior charity people to understand their perspectives on this question.

This research by Populus, published today, aimed to explore attitudes towards the commission and charity regulation, the effectiveness of the commission’s relationship with charities and other key stakeholders, and the impact of charity regulation on charities. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities for England and Wales.

Commission change programme

The commission is in the first year of a comprehensive three-year programme of change designed to help create a more efficient and robust regulator. This follows an allocation of £8 million ‘invest to save’ funding from the Treasury. The programme aims to deliver new digital services that make it easier for charities to interact with the commission whilst allowing it to focus more resource on higher risk work. This includes new technologies that will enable the commission to make smarter use of data to inform a tougher, more proactive risk-based approach to regulation.

Charity fundraising

The fieldwork for this research was carried out before the large amount of publicity that began in May following the case of Olive Cooke, and did not specifically ask the public about attitudes towards fundraising. Nonetheless the research shows that stakeholders and the public were already identifying concerns about fundraising and its impact on public trust and confidence.

The research also shows that three-quarters (76%) of the public and three-fifths (61%) of charities believe that the commission should do more to regulate and control charities to ensure they are working for the public benefit.

Previous commission research in 2014 showed that fundraising techniques used by charities is a major source of public concern. Two thirds of the public agree with the statement ‘some of the fundraising methods used by charities make me uncomfortable’.

The full report can be read on GOV.UK along with key findings, analysis and conclusions.


PR 40/15

Notes to editors

  1. Populus interviewed:
    • 1,001 members of the public between 23 March and 2 April 2015
    • 1,129 trustees, chief executives, directors, and founders of charities between 1 and 13 April 2015
    • 22 stakeholders between 22 April and 15 May 2015
  2. For full details of the methodology used, please see the full report.
  3. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more information see
  4. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales.
  5. We are the independent registrar and regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public’s interest, to ensure that:
    • charities know what they have to do
    • the public know what charities do
    • charities are held to account

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