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My vision of the Commission, and for the Commission

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Governance, Public Trust

It has been nearly two weeks since I started as the Charity Commission’s chief executive. The early days have been a whirlwind – new faces, a packed diary, hectic travel between our four offices, and a great deal to learn about the people and processes at work in the Commission. My principal impression of the Commission so far is of a committed and engaged staff. I am leading a team of people with diverse skills and perspectives, but who share a vocation: to promote public confidence in charities.

I believe they are right to feel that way. Charitable endeavour is at the heart of our society: giving generously of our time and money and helping others are what makes us distinct as a nation – it has shaped our history and is, I believe, what continues to make our nation both resilient and innovative.

I have seen for myself the difference charities can make. One of the things I enjoyed most about my time at the Office for Civil Society, was coming into contact with charities of all shapes and sizes and learning about how they transform lives. And I have served as a trustee myself, and understand what responsibilities rest on the shoulders of these volunteers, who, collectively, run the 170,000 charities on our register.

The role of the Charity Commission at the heart of the ecosystem of charities, the state and the public, is to ensure trust and confidence in the sector stays strong. We are an enabler – enabling charities to retain the trust of the public and the state through ensuring they stay within the law and enabling them to be well governed. And we perform the vital function of holding to account the small proportion of trustees who do not behave as the law, and the public, expect.

The Commission’s role involves therefore a fine balance. Charities are neither our friends to be let off the hook, nor foes to be fought. We are their regulator, and at registration, in filing their annual return, when using our digital services and our guidance, they are our customers, who rightly expect a smooth, professional service.

I look forward to working with the Commission’s board and its staff to fulfil its mission over the next four years. It won’t be easy – the Commission’s funding is at a knife-edge, while demand on us is increasing. Securing our funding into the future is vital. But two weeks into my time at the Commission, I am energised, and excited about the challenges ahead. And in the weeks and months ahead, I look forward to meeting charities, their beneficiaries, Parliamentarians and our partners in government – all of whom have a central role in assuring the future of this vital sector.

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  1. Comment by Steve King posted on

    I genuinely want to see you succeed and wish you all the best but 170,000 charities is just too many for you to have a fighting chance. Even good (great) people will struggle when over-stretched.

    More money is clearly needed but perhaps less charities to regulate would help too. Better to regulate a small market proactively and well than to be constantly accused of not being fit for purpose because you miss things, take too long to act and appear toothless?

    A review that looks at who you regulate and what you do as well as how you are funded is needed in my view. Perhaps a change to what constitutes a charitable purpose would reduce the numbers and help you become what you aspire to be?

    Good luck Helen. I feel you will need it.

    • Replies to Steve King>

      Comment by Tony kitchen posted on

      Helen Stephenson. How was a none elected Officer allowed to influence the. Charity Commission to make the Queens Regimental Memorele Garden have Change its name when it's their for the benifit of all to use this Chap Beattie had no right, it was not the wishes of the Queens Regimental Association and not Voted by its Members.
      This in my view should be reviewed has I beleive an Injustice as been done to the Present and Pass of our Regiment The Queens Regiment.
      A.P. Kitchen Ex 2nd Bn

  2. Comment by Kareen Boyd posted on

    A note of thanks for the documentation provided . We are a local group operating under a grant from the Local Trust's Big Local programme. The clarity of documentation has been a great help to us and we'd like to register our thanks to the authors.

  3. Comment by Carol Cotton posted on

    DEar Ms Stephenson,
    No doubt you are very busy with your new position but we would be grateful if you could advise us what will happen to the charity donations made to various charities for the victims of the Grebfall Tower tragedy?
    May we ask why the total funds have not been put into one fund and not held in the various charities where donations might have originated.
    As a new cause there obviously was not one particular charity in existence at the time of the fire.
    It would appear that the various charities still retain their funds and as such arguments and delays would hamper the distribution to the victims to whom we gave our donations. We would like to know if all the funds collected could now be in one account and enabled for distribution to occur.
    Your sincerely
    Grannies for Grenfall
    177 Tavistock Creswcent, London W11 1AE

  4. Comment by Dawn Barlow posted on

    I am writing as a supporter of the Queens Regiment Memorial Woodland we have been informed that they have been asked to change their name as a direct result of a complaint from another party.
    I implore that the Queens Regiment Memorial Woodland can keep there name as it was set up by a Queensman for Queensman and other services and is a living memorial for friends family and all those that have lost whether in service or not.
    Having a partner that has served a number of years in the Queens Regiment the QRMW has become a real place of reflection for him especially having lost friends in conflict.
    To take away the name would be disrespectful for those have died and are honoured at the Woodland.

    • Replies to Dawn Barlow>

      Comment by Mr Colvin Nurse posted on

      Hello Mrs Stephenson
      I am sorry to have to take up your time as I am aware you are a very busy person.
      However, as a former Sergeant of the Queens Regiment, with 27 years service, I am writing to you, to ask if you can please reconsider your request that the Queens Memorial Gardens change their name, and for the following reason.
      The land was purchased by Mr Cooling without any assistance from anyone, as a legacy to those served in the Regiment with an ethos of not turning away any ex Soldier, Airmen, Sailors or their families. The non-elected body in charged of the QRA was well aware of this from the start, and actively encouraged it
      The attempt to take control of the Gardens, which required the garden's funds to be transferred to the QRA, was reject on the grounds that they would have to go begging to the QRA for money, which if needed in an emergence, would take to long, and other grounds. This was not acceptable to the QRA who decided to cut ties with the Gardens, if the Gardens did not succumb to their wishes. The letter to you trying to stop the Gardens from using their current name, to me is a petty act. It is also unfair that all the other organisation using the Queens name in their
      title, is allow to do so, as long as they came under the umbrella of the QRA, who do not own the rights to the Queens title. Finally the gardens is supported by a band of ex Queens soldiers and others from the different Arms, all of who do so freely, and at their own expense. Can I beseech upon you, to please look at your decision/request again. Thank you in advance for your consideration

  5. Comment by IAN SHERET posted on

    Dear Helen
    I was a serving member of the 2nd Battalion the Queens Regiment..A charity called the Queens Memorial Garden, Dorking, Surrey, was set up to remember all our fallen comrades in the service.
    I understand, and you are no doubt aware, that pressure has been put on the team who run this charity, that the name be changed to exclude the word 'Queens'.
    I believe this pressure group resides within the Queens Regimental Association, these people are not elected by anyone but appointed because of the high rank they used to hold, they are not a broad cross section of all serving and x members.
    The Queens Memorial Gardens do some fantastic work, raising money to fund good causes and to assist x army personnel in need. It is supported primarily by x NCOs of the regiment and not by the high ranking officers of the regiment. (although some sincere officers see the steadfast work being done and do support the charity). Its a place where there is no buraucracy or bureaucratic nonsense, just a lovely peaceful garden in a woodland for people to reflect.
    How can individuals, who are unelected and are not a true representation of the 'rank and file' of the men who served the regiment, put pressure on a charity to change its name, for what legitimate reason, and for what reason at all, other than to bully 'a little brother' and to show how much influence they have if they wish to use it. The Gardens are for ALL, to reflect and to remember, a number of our fallen comrades ashes have been scattered there.
    Please do not allow certain members of the Regimental Association to put pressure on you and the Queens Memorial Garden to change its name. Its bureaucratic nonsense and the uk is big enough to embrace both charities with what ever name they chose to use....
    Thank you so much for taking your valuable time to read this.
    Yours truly
    'X' Sergeant Ian Sheret

  6. Comment by Keith Britten. 24324032 posted on

    Queens memorial garden name change wrong wrong wrong. From a injured soldier who served his country.

  7. Comment by Vanessa Abson-Hicks posted on

    Hello Helen , I am sending you this message regarding the Queens regiment memorial woodland for fallen servicemen. QRMWFFS
    I believe you are in a misunderstanding that the name Queen's regiment name is owned by the QRA(Queens regiment association) having received a letter from Col Beety ( sorry if the spelling is incorrect)
    This is incorrect as we did a 'Fact finding search ' and this is owned by the MOD and the regiment has been disbanded for a number of years. This can be clarified with an online search.
    The QRA although a good association , do feel quite possessive of its name. I am a life member of the association . BUT I also feel the QRMWFFS Do a brilliant job of helping people under their umbrella..
    I was a recipient of this help when my husband died Oct 2015. The QRA did nothing although they were asked .
    I feel and so do lots of others, that the QRA are trying to stop a good cause getting charity status for no other reason but 'Sour grapes '.
    I have written to the The commission earlier regarding this matter.
    The QRA and the QRMWFFS are not in competition as each do just 'what the are good at' so I can not see why QRMWFFS are being asked to change the name.
    My husband ashes are in the woodlands in the garden of remembrance , I feel very strongly that the name should stay as it is.
    I will await your reply and reasons as to why you think it should be changed, as ownership of the name is owned by the MOD
    Not as claimed the QRA..
    The people work so hard at QRMWFFS they support us all . Please help them to continue doing what they do, under the name they use for the good causes.
    With kind regards Vanessa Abson-Hicks

  8. Comment by shaun toombs posted on

    please will you not change the name of the queens charity woodlands as a formal serving soldier we are proud and happy with it and a former non commissioned office has no right to say how we name are memorial gardens and as most of us who airport it are fòrmer queens men of the former regiment which I hasten to add has been disbanded are proud to keep the name of our loving regiment in our hearts

  9. Comment by Terry Cooling posted on

    I write to you with concerns to a Charity very close to my Heart, Charity in Question is Queen Regiment Memorial Woodlands. Some people believe that this Charity should not be allowed to call it self by its name because they Help Our Fallen Hero's, not them selves. One person in particular namely Col Beattie says that because they wont line his pocket with the monies they raise that they cant use the Queens Regiment or the Cap Badge that WE ALL PROUDLY WORE DURING OUR SERVICE,
    Beattie DOES NOT own the rights to the Name of the Queens Regiment nor the Emblem of the said Badge.
    None of the Voluntary Workers have ever taken a penny in payment for the work they do nor do they want paying it is their way of Thanking Our Hero's for protecting our land from the evil termites so you me my children their children your children can sleep safe at night. What I would ask you to do is take a drive to the Woodlands in Dorking Surrey meet the people that help out see for yourself the efforts they put in and tell them they cant use the Regimental Name we all served so proud nor they cant have The Charity Status they so rightly Deserve.
    I Honestly Believe that after just one visit you will change your mind.
    Also George Paul Cooling purchased the land out of his own pocket never has he taken a penny back for the Purchase its his Personal Gift to THE HERO'S THAT HAVE FALLEN THE HERO'S THAT RETURN AND THE FAMILY OF YOUR, MINE AND ENGLANDS HERO'S.
    The address for the Woodlands is;
    Pasture Wood Road,
    Holmbury St Mary,
    RH5 6LG.
    (approx 300m past postcode).
    Now Our Soldiers Need your Backing PLEASE DONT TURN your Back on them, They Didnt turn their Backs on you when you needed them????

  10. Comment by Colin Nash posted on

    I wish to register a complaint,having served as a member of her majesty's armed forces with the 3 Battalion of the Queen's Regiment I understand that a certain Retired officer has asked the commission to ban the name of the Queen's memorial garden in Dorking .This is the action of one individual and not the wishes of many of my fellow comrades who I know feel as strongly as I do on this matter please take into account my complaint on this matter when making a decision regarding the naming of the garden.Many thanks Colin Nash

  11. Comment by Peter Marshall posted on

    Regarding the; 'Queens Memorial Garden' I served with the armed forces (Army) and with the Queens Regiment. It is somewhat distasteful that a person can decide to alter the name after all the hard work and persons who have contributed to such a wonderful attributed cause.
    I am protesting that this person should not be able to continue with this outlandish pursuant. The name should remain in memory of all past and present of the Queens.
    As a past soldier with many years as well as all those who have contributed to the country, this exception of one person, retired officer! should be taken strongly to maintain the good of the works that have been carried out as titled Queens Memorial Garden' why was there not a complaint at the very beginning why NOW .

  12. Comment by david welch posted on

    I wish the CC well and hope that the website will eventually become navigable.
    I have tried to change one word in the title of the charity in which I am a trustee.
    Its simply not possible and there appears to be no means on the site by which one can send a mail requesting help.
    David Welch

  13. Comment by Lyn Donnelly posted on

    I would respectfully ask you to reconsider your order to force the queens regiment memorial gardens charity to change their name
    This charity was set up with the purest intentions a dream from a man haunted by pats after serving his country
    He honours his regimental exactly as all past serving soldiers do and he got off his couch bought a piece of land and set to to make it a magnificent place of tranquility for all past servicemen to reflect and heal
    I cannot believe this charity is to be forced to change its name
    If an organisation or person is not allowed to use the queens,regiments name then you will need to order ex servicemen to remove tattoos etc which honour their service
    I shake my head in sadness that beaurocracy is forcing this situation

  14. Comment by david welch posted on


  15. Comment by Lucy Lloyd-Scott posted on

    It's fascinating to note that an organisation that actively seeks to promote good governance by charity trustees and provide effective regulation has removed all methods of talking to an actual person who can provide tailored advice and support. If your question isn't answered by a fact sheet then you are essentially left to guess or make up a route forward. Which is a really effective way of supporting compliance. I would be keen to hear from Helen on how she intends to promote best practice amongst the thousands of charities in England and Wales while the CC avoids any direct, unmanaged contact.

    • Replies to Lucy Lloyd-Scott>

      Comment by katebell posted on

      Hi Lucy. Sorry to hear you've been having trouble contacting us. You can contact us via our online enquiry form or our helpline. More information is available at

      • Replies to katebell>

        Comment by Lucy Lloyd-Scott posted on

        A helpline only open four hours a day to deal with technical issues concerning the website or an online form is not really a helpline. What about Trustees who work full time and might want to call about a specific issue and don't have time to wade through numerous fact sheets and can't call during a short period during the working day? It isn't very flexible. Our charity recently wanted to change its name and after the trustees ran out of patience trying to find the answer on the website a staff member spent hours trying to find someone to talk to at the CC who could help. Hardly a good use of charity funds. What changes will the CC be making to its points of contact to provide more responsive, tailored and flexible support to charities to ensure they are well governed?

  16. Comment by Jesus is the reason for the season posted on

    Ms Stephenson - top of your agenda should be to sift through the 170,000,
    to cull those that the public would not generally expect to find registered as charities, such as weapons makers or political lobbies, no matter how they 'define' themselves..

  17. Comment by Charity Accelerator posted on

    Article was Awesome.....
    Explanation is Unique.

    Keep Going!!!!!!

  18. Comment by Charityuk posted on

    Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.

  19. Comment by James Fellows posted on

    The Charity Commission appears not to bother looking at facts when conducting investigations, leaving out evidence which is glaringly obvious that would clear Trustees if any wrongdoing.

    It becomes clear that the Commission is too concerned with politics rather than process and correct internal governance.