The results of our 2017 Trust and Confidence in the Charity Commission survey are good news for the Commission. Against a backdrop of falling trust in institutions of all kinds, public trust in the Commission has held steady since 2015 (at 6.0). The public (88%) think we do a vital job. And there’s strong endorsement from charities and the public for our regulatory priorities.
There’s more good news, following last year’s widely anticipated fall in public trust and confidence in charities. This survey shows that charities are well trusted compared to other sectors. But there is no room for complacency, as charity stakeholders are clearly aware.
Other findings are more nuanced. Whilst public trust held firm, perceptions of charity regulation as effective slipped (but remain positive overall). Conversely, whilst charities’ high level of trust in the Commission dipped slightly, 77% of charities now say that regulation is effective.
I think this may be indicative of rising public expectations – both of charities and of their regulator.
The public are more aware of charities and the vital role they play. Nearly a third of the public are aware that they have benefited from a charity’s services. Charities have been at the forefront of responses to recent emergencies, as I’ve seen first-hand. They are also in it for the long haul, fulfilling vital roles – in heritage, animal welfare, palliative care, and medical and educational provision. With greater awareness comes more demand.
In addition, well over half of the public are now aware of the Commission. They are making more use of our website and online register. They are reassured by knowing that a charity is registered. Whilst 41% think the level of charity regulation is about right, more people feel that there is too little regulation than too much. They agree that we should focus on holding charities to account, enforcing compliance and enabling charities to be more effective.
So we continue to publicise the fact that, where there is poor or bad practice, we take action to deal with it. We make no apology for acting on public concerns including those aired in the media, often difficult issues like extremism, poor safeguarding practice and high profile governance failures.
But of course we want to communicate good news too, sharing case studies of good practice from which other charities can learn and providing the resources to support trustees to get it right. It’s encouraging that the research shows more trustees using our guidance and services – 47% used online guidance (up 12% from 2015) and 68% updated their charity details online (up 7%).
So in presenting this research I am both proud of my colleagues’ achievements, and publicly acknowledging that we have to strive still harder across all fronts. And of course, the bottom line is the struggle to secure the resources to do the whole range of what the public and charities expect from us properly and sustainably.
We are committed to investigating funding models where the biggest charities make some contribution, to allow us to develop and improve the key services from which the sector benefits. We also continue to make the case to the Treasury for our core funding to increase. These are difficult conversations to have, but we cannot avoid them, and we hope soon to secure Treasury agreement to consult publicly on our future funding.
I hope you’ll find much of interest in the report we’re sharing today. I hope publishing it shows that we hold ourselves to account for securing public trust and confidence in our own role, and we challenge ourselves to do ever better.