Charity associations respond with requests for her dismissal, perhaps showing gap between donors and interest groups.

Tina Stowell, the newly appointed chair of Britain’s Charity Commission, introduced herself with a salvo at the Safeguarding Summit on March 5th. Only six days on the job, Stowell launched her “journey of reform” at the Charity Commission to restore the public’s trust in charities. On safeguarding, addressing the heads of 50 large international charities, she did not mince words.

“As the regulator, it’s important to me that I always speak plainly…. it’s vital we don’t allow the shorthand, technocratic word of “safeguarding” to let us forget what the failings are that we are talking about…In this context, it is aid workers sexually abusing the most desperate and vulnerable people they were sent to support.”

“...If we are to restore public trust, we must understand why people are angry… Important institutions acting in the interests of those in charge, rather than of the people they exist to serve. It’s bad enough when bankers disappoint. But when aid workers and charity bosses are self-interested, it is incomparably worse.”

“It’s vital for all of you as [charity] leaders to understand that, however noble your cause, it doesn’t provide immunity from these basic expectations. No cause, however noble, provides a licence to justify unacceptable means.”

“This [safeguarding] summit will be a failure in my eyes if one of the action-points is ‘helping the public understand better what it is aid charities do’. The public doesn’t need to understand better. We need to show we understand what the public expects of us.”

Not surprisingly, charities are attacking Stowell’s appointment. ACEVO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organizations which represents 1,200 charity top brass, issued a public letter asking the government to reconsider Stowell’s appointment. This was also signed by the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action, Social Change, and the Charity Finance Group. Yesterday, Labour MP Lisa Nandy lodged a formal complaint on Stowell’s appointment. Thankfully, Minister Hancock is sticking with Stowell.

Donors don’t have lobby groups. Who speaks for donors? The Charities Commission is the only organization representing the 44 million adults in England and Wales that donated £9.7 billion last year. This ‘silent majority’ need the Charities Commission to enforce the rules and make charities more accountable.   

In this time of crisis, the greatest need is for an independent and impartial leader. Having extensive charity work experience is actually a detriment. Now it is especially appropriate for a “veteran outsider” to take the top job. So far, Stowell sounds like the perfect deputy for donors.

Kate Bahen

March 7, 2018



Well worth reading for yourself. “Baroness Stowell’s speech at Safeguarding Summit: The Chair of the Charity Commission’s opening address at a safeguarding summit held to improve standards in charities working in the international development sector.”

ACEVO “Appointment of Charity Commission chair” February 21, 2018

Kirsty Weakley, “Ex-shadow charities minister makes formal complaint over Stowell appointment”, Civil Society March 6, 2018

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