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Regulation of civil society

Information and guidance your organisation needs about regulatory requirements.

Charities are regulated not just by the Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator, but potentially by several other bodies including the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Ofsted. Many of these regulators charge a levy to those they regulate to part-fund the regulation, but the Charity Commission does not.

Good regulation is enabling, inclusive and transparent. It is vital that the Charity Commission is a fair and politically transparent regulator in order to maintain the independence of the sector from political interference. Strong regulators balance enforcement and support functions and their leadership teams include people with voluntary sector expertise. Regulation should give civil society leaders the tools and information they need to run effective organisations. We welcome proportionate, transparent and independent regulation and want to work with our regulator in order to hold the sector to account and help charities to improve their practices.

The Commission’s purpose is to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society. It regulates all registered charities in England and Wales. They deal with annual reporting, governance responsibilities and serious incident reporting, and provide a huge amount of useful information on their website. They also carry out investigations into charities based on complaints or concerns from the public.

ACEVO’s CEO Jane Ide and a small group of infrastructure colleagues meet every month with the Charity Commission CEO and members of her team to share information and discuss issues arising in terms of regulation, including raising questions or concerns from ACEVO members. ACEVO’s head of iInfluencing Roberta Fusco chairs regular subgroup meetings with members of the Civil Society Group (CSG) to gather and share intel that feeds into the meetings with the Commission.

If there is anything you would like to raise, please get in touch.

Additional reading:

ACEVO welcomes the new Charity Commission CEO

Regulator publishes new guidance on charities’ social media use

Member briefing: the Official Receiver and Kid’s Company case (member-only content)

Response to the report on Save the Children

Response to the report on Oxfam

We have advocated for many years for enabling, inclusive and transparent regulation. The importance of independent leadership of the Charity Commission is paramount; it is particularly vital for charities that their regulator is seen to be impartial, politically neutral and equipped with the expertise to properly assess complaints made about charities. We have previously spoken out regarding our concerns that appointments made to the role of the chair of the Charity Commission have lacked political neutrality, resulting in eroded trust between the sector and its regulator. It is crucial that this role is filled by someone without significant political ties, but also by someone who can demonstrate strong, fair and independent leadership skills and the capacity to challenge incorrect or damaging narratives about what activities charities can and cannot carry out, as well as clarifying the legal remit of the regulator.

Our activities surrounding the previous Charity Commission chair recruitment process

November 2020

December 2020

  • We wrote to the then Secretary of State, Oliver Dowden, asking him to “work with us to co-design an appointment process that is founded in transparency, accountability and party-political impartiality”, alongside other infrastructure bodies.

January 2021

  • ACEVO representatives met with Peter Riddell, the then Commissioner for Public Appointments, to discuss our concerns with the Governance Code for Public Appointments and pre-appointment scrutiny. Peter Riddell has publicly stated his support for a ‘cooling-off’ period if a Select Committee unanimously recommends against the appointment of a preferred candidate, to allow to proper resolution of concerns.
  • We published a blog outlining a draft person specification for the next chair of the Charity Commission.

March 2021

  • We wrote to Oliver Dowden welcoming the appointment of Ian Karet as interim chair of the Charity Commission to allow for a proper recruitment process, and circulated the above blog link outlining key attributes we would like candidates to demonstrate.
  • The appointment process launches for the next chair of the Charity Commission. On 22 March 2021, we published a blog responding to this person specification, highlighting our key concern that the need for independence had been removed.
  • We received a letter from the then Minister for Civil Society, Diana Barran, who had been passed our letter to Oliver Dowden from 1 March, stating that the appointment would be conducted in line with the Governance Code for Public Appointments and that it was not felt a meeting was necessary.

July 2021

  • Peter Riddell wrote to Michael Gove, raising concerns about the vague explanations given for delays to the process for recruiting the Charity Commission chair, and when the interim chair’s tenure would conclude.

September 2021

  • Oliver Dowden’s column on Getting Britain’s charities back on track is published, implying that mission drift is widespread across the sector due to charity engagement with controversial issues, and stating that the new chair will need to ‘rebalance’ this.
  • We published a blog in response to this column, outlining our continued commitment to the independence of charities and the chair of the Charity Commission from specific politically partisan views of what charities should do. We also highlighted that Dowden’s assertion of a need for ‘a return to charitable objects’ is unfounded given that the Charity Commission has found no evidence of wrongdoing.
  • Nadine Dorries MP is announced as the new Secretary of State for DCMS in the cabinet reshuffle.
  • In partnership with NCVO, we wrote to Nadine Dorries asking for clarification on the recruitment process for the Charity Commission chair, and to confirm that her predecessor’s comments did not indicate undue political involvement in the recruitment process. 

October 2021

  • A group of infrastructure bodies wrote to the DCMS Select Committee outlining our commitment to independence of both charities and the chair of the Commission, and the attributes we would like to see in the next chair of the Commission.

December 2021

  • Following the government’s announcement of Martin Thomas as the preferred candidate, ACEVO and NCVO write to members of the DCMS Select Committee with suggested focus points for the pre-appointment scrutiny hearing.
  • Following Martin Thomas’ resignation from the role, a group of infrastructure bodies wrote to the Secretary of State Nadine Dorries urging her to rerun to appointment process in full as soon as possible. We also wrote to members of the DCMS Select Committee asking them to support this call, to ensure trust and accountability in the process and an opportunity to improve due diligence in the process.

March 2022

  • Following the government’s announcement of Mr Orlando Fraser as their preferred candidate for chair of the Charity Commission, ACEVO and NCVO released a joint statement outlining our concerns around Mr Fraser’s party political connections and highlighting the fact that the process was not rerun.
  • ACEVO and NCVO submit a briefing to the DCMS Select Committee reiterating the attributes for the next chair of the Charity Commission we had previously outlined, and highlighting that we would like to see questioning around party-political independence and the integrity of the appointment process during the pre-appointment scrutiny hearing.

The Charity Commission carries out regular research on public trust in charities, and monitors fluctuations in the public mood. At ACEVO we believe that there is significant work to be done across the sector to ensure public trust, through greater transparency, accountability and good practice in charities. However, we also want to ensure that when the Charity Commission, sector or government discusses trust in charities we are clear about what data is telling us and the limits of that data. Trust is not a static concept and definitions and levels of trust vary across communities and demographics. It is notoriously difficult to measure trust. Whether the data from the Charity Commission shows a rise or fall in trust, at ACEVO we take the following approach:

  1. If we are to measure trust in the charity sector we need to ensure that the data is used in a sensitive, appropriate way. There also needs to be appropriate disclaimers about the limitations of data – whether the framing of research questions, collection of data, what can be understood from statistics, or the wider analysis it sits within
  2. We need the Charity Commission to communicate what a charity is in law and how this allows for a wide range of operational forms. Improving public understanding of the sector is critical to allow the Charity Commission and charities to work well. This makes it easier for charities to be able to communicate how their decisions fit with regulations. It also supports individuals to know what behaviours they can appropriately report a charity to the Charity Commission for.
  3. Ideally, any reports on trust should be enabling for charities to take clear actions to improve – such as increasing transparency, accountability and good practice. A more nuanced conversation, with clarity around data should generate ideas for improvement.

Also read: Public trust in charities 2023

Fundraising regulator


Annual Complaints Report 2022-23 

The Code of Fundraising Practice is a set of standards outlining how charities should fundraise responsibly. The Fundraising Regulator is currently reviewing the Code of Fundraising Practice.

Care Quality Comission


The CQC regulates a number of health and social care organisations, including care homes, mental health services, in-home care and community based health services.



 Ofsted regulates schools and educational facilities, as well as childcare, adoption and fostering agencies and some teacher training.

The Regulator of Social Housing


 The RSC regulates social housing providers to ensure they meet a range of needs. It sits within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

The Information Commissioner’s Officer


The ICO is set up to promote openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals. A personal data breach under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) could be reported to the ICO.

A memorandum of understanding is now in place between the ICO, the Fundraising Regulator and the Charity Commission about how they will  work together on cases relating to charities and data protection.

Member briefing about GDPR (member-only content). 

Not an ACEVO member?

If you have any queries please email or call 020 7014 4600.

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