Thank you for inviting me to be here this morning to deliver the prestigious Charity Commission Annual Lecture.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my appreciation for all those who work in our charity sector and for those who freely give their time, money and expertise in the service of others. We are a country built on the bonds of family, community and citizenship and there is no greater example of the strength of those bonds than our great movement of charities and social enterprises.
But the strength of that civil society – which I believe we should treasure deeply – does not just depend on the ingenuity, generosity and commitment of countless volunteers, social entrepreneurs and philanthropists. As with other parts of our economy, it also depends on the practices that our charities and social enterprises adopt; and above all on the public trust they command.
That is why the work that William, Paula and their team at the Charity Commission are doing is so important. Because the reforms they are leading are strengthening the sector – and together with the new Fundraising Regulator – ensuring public confidence in our charities and the contribution they make in helping to meet some of the greatest social challenges of our time.
And let’s be clear that some of those challenges are significant and long-standing.
We live in a country where if you’re born poor, you will die on average 9 years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you’re likely to be paid less than a man.