The name Claire Dove will probably not be familiar to most people reading this piece. She is described on one website as a key player in the social enterprise movement and since the early 1980’s has led the Blackburne House Group using her entrepreneurial skills to support the growth of the organisation into an award winning and extremely successful social business. Blackburne House is a Liverpool based organisation that works regionally and nationally and has empowered thousands of women into careers in non- traditional areas such as construction. It is a Beacon College and runs the School for Social Entrepreneurs in the North West. Claire was appointed as a UK Social Enterprise Ambassador and on joining the board of the Coalition she chaired their Black and Minority Ethnic BAME Taskforce before taking over as Chair in 2007 from Baroness Glenys Thornton. Claire is a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside, a Fellow and governor of John Moores University, Vice Chair of Liverpool Community College and a business ambassador for the Northwest. Suffice it to say that she is has extensive charitable sector experience and that has led to a much wider role for her.
One of the boards Claire is a member of is the Charity Commission, where she is one among seven. She was appointed in 2013 and is due to leave the Commission shortly. In one fell swoop the Charity Commission will lose one of its only two women members, its only black and minority ethnic member and its only member with any hands on charitable experience. It is a disgrace that the Commission board apart from Claire is so out of touch with the sector which it is supposed to regulate. If a board was created to regulate the Arts, Business or even parts of Government, there would be a huge outcry if its experience of the sector it was supposed to regulate lay on the shoulders of one person. However the charitable sector is made up for the main part of people whose primary focus is what the charity they are involved in is trying to achieve. Perhaps too few of us have taken the time and trouble to raise our concerns with the people who appoint members to this important body, or perhaps we have a Government that so resents and despises the sector that it is intentionally ensuring that people without real experience serve on its board. I believe that half the board members should have worked in the sector and Claire’s departure brings that into sharp focus, it seems extremely disappointing that there is now only one woman on the board and that the board will now lose its only BAME member is a disgrace. Sussex in general and Brighton & Hove in particular have a dynamic voluntary sector, this week one such charity, BH Impetus received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service . There are many people in Sussex who would make excellent members of the Commission. It is time that the Government consulted the sector on who should be appointed and asked charities to nominate names for 3 or 4 seats on the commission so that the legacy of Claire Dove’s time on the board will be built upon, not consigned to history.