Stuart Andrew MP, the Minister currently responsible for sport, gambling, civil society, and equalities, has encouraged the #OperationTransparency campaign to “continue to engage” with the Charity Commission on trustee diversity and data transparency.
Responding to a letter from the campaign asking DCMS to represent our concerns over the charity diversity data gap to the Charity Commission, Andrew said the Commission’s independence from ministerial control means it “cannot be directed to act by the Government or ministers,” including DCMS, its departmental sponsor.
A written question in the House of Commons in June by Barbara Keeley MP, then the Shadow Minister for Civil Society, received a response very similar to the letter we received on 20 July.
However, in an acknowledgement of one of the campaign’s main rationales, Andrew claimed the Government “recognises the important role data can play” in understanding diversity, equality, and inclusion around trusteeship. He also acknowledged the importance of trustee diversity “for the good governance of charities.”
Andrew’s response repeats the Charity Commission’s claim that Annual Returns are “not an appropriate mechanism” for collecting equalities data, a position we have criticised as vague and unsupported by adequate consultation with charities.
Nevertheless, the response marks the first direct engagement with this issue by a serving minister, to our knowledge, and we remain optimistic about our conversations with government.
Dear Jay Richardson,
Thank you for your correspondence of 21 June to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt Hon Lucy Frazer KC MP, on behalf of yourself and your co-signatories, regarding a lack of data on diversity, equality and inclusion in the charity sector. I am replying as the Minister for Civil Society.
The Government is committed to ensuring that opportunities, such as charity trusteeship, are available to all and recognises the important role data can play in helping to understand such issues as a priority.
Trustee diversity is important for the good governance of charities. By having a broad range of skills, experiences and backgrounds, charity trustees are better placed to challenge one another and strengthen their decision making.
The Charity Commission is engaging with stakeholders to better understand the barriers to charity trusteeship. It is taking targeted action to address this through its guidance, campaigns and events. It explored the use of charities’ annual returns as a method to collect diversity data, but concluded that this was not an appropriate mechanism to do so. It is engaging with partners to explore alternative options.
As the department that sponsors the Charity Commission, we are keen to support it in its efforts to strengthen the data it collects, and in its efforts to encourage greater diversity of charity trustees. However, because the commission is statutorily independent, it cannot be directed to act by the Government or ministers.
Please continue to engage with the Charity Commission to encourage greater trustee diversity and data transparency. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport will also continue to work with the commission to support these aims.
Rt Hon Stuart Andrew MP
Minister for Sport, Gambling and Civil Society