‘I’m immensely proud of all my staff’: Helen Stephenson on a year of support and motivation at the Charity Commission

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. The Charity Commission CEO tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid while pushing ahead with new challenges
Helen Stephenson. Photo: GOV.UK

By Civil Service World

21 Dec 2021


What was your highlight of 2021?

An important highlight came in the summer, when an independent study confirmed public trust in charities is recovering from an all-time low three years ago. One of the Charity Commission’s most important functions is to help ensure charities inspire trust and confidence, enabling them to thrive and improve society. So these findings were important and welcome. 

But there is no room for complacency for us or for charities. The pandemic may have increased awareness of the great work many charities do, but trust remains fragile and charities will need to keep working hard to meet people’s expectations. 

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

A key challenge remained ensuring our staff felt supported and motivated during a period of continued remote working, with all the emotional and practical challenges that has brought. I’m immensely proud of all my staff and of my senior team for ensuring teams across the commission kept up the pace and quality of our work, while also retaining and promoting a sense of esprit de corps. More recently, we’ve worked hard to ensure our return to hybrid working this autumn was sensitive to people’s differing circumstances.  
What is your number one priority for 2022?

In a word: data. As a regulator, we gather and use data for three crucial reasons: to give the public access to information that helps them make informed choices about the charities they want to support, to identify risks and potential problems or wrongdoing in charities, and to provide policymakers with better visibility of the scale and scope of the sector. So over the next year, we’re undertaking a significant project to review both the way we gather data and how we use the data we hold.
Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

I’ve gone for two special guests – Bernadine Evaristo and Adele, (both women at the top of their game). Reading became an important escape for me during lockdown, and I loved Evaristo’s Booker Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other. And Adele for obvious reasons – she is hilarious, and what a voice. 


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