Restoring trust and confidence in the charity sector

Baroness Stowell, the new Chair of the Charity Commission appointed in February 2018, has said that the biggest challenge facing the sector is “falling public trust “.

Our latest research on the issue would bear this out.

It found that the UK public is nearly three times more likely to trust a doctor (69%) than a charity (26%).  The survey conducted for Pro Bono Economics by FTI Consulting in July 2017 found that teachers (trusted by 56% of the public), scientists (52%), police (44%) and judges (38%) were professions that scored highly in the trust stakes.  But charities (26%) now rate well below hairdressers (45%), with four in ten people (45%) saying that they were cautious of charities, 18% suspicious of them, and 10% explicitly distrusting them.

And in June 2016, PBE issued a response to the Charity Commission’s annual survey of public trust and confidence in charities, which showed that results were at an all-time low.

Our response

The Charity Commission’s annual survey of public trust and confidence in charities makes disturbing reading for charities working across the UK. The level of trust in the sector has declined from 6.7 to 5.7 out of ten (where 0 means ‘I don’t trust them at all’ and 10 means ‘I trust them completely’) since the collapse of Kid’s Company and death of Olive Cooke in 2016. The scandal surrounding aid charities in 2018 may indicate a more profound effect when the survey is published later this year.

Pro Bono Economics (PBE) is working to restore public trust in charities by offering high-quality consultancy from professional volunteer economists to charities. To date, PBE has worked with over 300 charities and has its sights set on helping many more in the future.

“In a world of shrinking budgets and a spotlight on accountability, charities and social enterprises need help to show they are making a real difference to society. This is a challenge we embrace; our mission is to help them demonstrate the impact they make and the value they create." Julia Grant, CEO, Pro Bono Economics

PBE recently worked with the PHSE Association (personal, social, health and economic education).  It is both a charity and membership association.  It aims to ensure that every student in the country receives high-quality, regular PSHE education which results in better academic achievement, emotional wellbeing and preparedness for the world of work.

However, PSHE education is not statutory and many pupils do not have any at all. The PSHE Association approached PBE to help them respond to a call for evidence by the Department for Education looking at the impacts of PSHE education on academic attainment, attendance and behaviour.

The PBE study revealed strong evidence that PSHE education has a positive impact on academic attainment and does not detract from other core curriculum subjects, as critics often suggest. The analysis found that school-based anti-bullying programmes resulted in a decrease in bullying and victimisation, and showed children with higher levels of behavioural, emotional, social and school wellbeing have higher levels of academic achievement.

Jonathan Baggaley, Chief Executive of the PSHE Association:

“By supporting mental health, physical health, safeguarding and healthy relationships, PSHE education removes numerous barriers to learning, clearing the way for pupils to succeed in their academic studies while gaining invaluable knowledge and skills for life.  It must therefore be prioritised so that all children in all schools receive regular PSHE lessons, taught by trained teachers. Many thanks to Pro Bono Economics for their exhaustive work on this review”

Through our range of work, highlighting the impact that charities make, PBE is optimistic about the role it can play in restoring trust and confidence in the charity sector moving forward.