The Charity Commission’s new system and its impact on charities

17th May 2024

A charity trustee using a laptop

On 31 July 2023, the Charity Commission for England and Wales changed the way registered charities access and use their online services.

The online service is the portal through which a registered charity can:

  • Submit the annual return
  • Report changes to the charity details – including the appointment and removal of trustees
  • Amend the governing document – apply for consent to regulated alterations
  • Change the financial year of the charity
  • Change the name or working name of the charity.

Prior to 31 July 2023, charities accessed their online services portal by using the charity registration number and one password for the whole charity.

The changes

Online services are now accessed individually by the charity contact, trustees and third party users such as professional advisors, charity employees and volunteers. The new system means that each person with access will use their own email address and personal password to access their Charity Commission Account which houses online services. Once users have access to their account, this should list all the charities of which they are a trustee, contact or third party user.

Accessing the new system

The contact for the charity should have received a link from the Charity Commission to set up their account. The Charity Commission’s guidance for ‘Setting up My Charity Commission Account’ can be found here. If the contact for your charity has not received this link, they should contact the Charity Commission on 0300 066 9197.

In order for trustees and third party users to access the charity’s online services, they will need to be invited by the contact for the charity. Once the contact has access to their account, the following steps will need to be taken to add a third party user:

  1. Sign in to your account
  2. Go to your homepage for the charity in question
  3. Scroll down and select ‘user administration’
  4. Select ‘add a portal user’
  5. Enter the user’s email address, then ‘save and continue’
  6. Add the user’s name then ‘save and continue’
  7. Select the services they will have access to and select ‘edit’ permission then ‘save and continue’
  8. You will then see a preview of what you have entered for this user, if it is correct, select ‘confirm and send invitation’
  9. You will get a message confirming that the user has been added and sent an invitation.

Reasons for the change

One of the main reasons for the change is better data security. The online services for a charity used to be accessed through the charity registration number, which is available to the public, and password. This meant that the services could be accessed by anyone who had been provided with, or intercepted, the password.

The Charity Commission has also commented that the new system “will facilitate a more direct relationship between the regulator and trustees, helping to ensure they are supported in their role and equipped to run their charities well.”


Unfortunately the new system has presented a number of hurdles such as:

  • Contacts not receiving the link to set up their account
  • The link to set up an account expiring
  • Contacts and third party users not having access to all charities which they should have access to
  • Contacts being unable to add third party users to the online services.

Regrettably, with charity contacts not being able to access the online services, charities across England and Wales have been unable to file their annual return and accounts on time. The Charity Commission reported an 8% decline in the number of charities filing their annual return; equal to 76% of charities, from the same period last year.

Notwithstanding the challenges, the Chair of the Charity Commission, Orlando Fraser, reported that “the Commission will ensure that no charity is disadvantaged because of difficulties accessing the service and we are working hard to meet the high demand of queries we are receiving from those wanting assistance accessing and using the system.”

If you are having issues accessing your charity’s online services, you should contact the Charity Commission.