Register of Charities: a review of information collected from charities
Issue date: 29 May 2012
The Charity Commission's core role as regulator of charities is to protect the public's interest in the integrity of charity.
We aim to assure the public that organisations with the status of 'charity' are legitimate and operate independently and wholly in pursuit of their charitable purposes. The Register of Charities and the information we collect at the point of registration and through charity annual updates and returns plays an important role in providing that assurance.
Following our recent strategic review we have strengthened our focus on developing the compliance and accountability of the sector, and developing its self reliance. Alongside our work to take action where there is malpractice or misconduct and ensure that charities comply with their legal obligations, we are committed to holding charities to account through transparency requirements. In order to achieve this we are reviewing the information we require from charities to make sure that it is relevant, both to us as regulator and to the public, at the same time bearing in mind the need to avoid creating any undue burden for charities. For more information about our new strategic priorities please see our Strategic Plan for 2012-15.
It is important to note that some of the issues and questions we are exploring as part of the consultation would require changes to legislation or accounting regulations in order to be taken forward. The Charity Commission does not have the power to make such changes, but we are taking the opportunity to seek views on aspects of charity information that will help set an agenda for the future, as well as informing more immediate changes to the Annual Return.
Why are we consulting?
We are consulting because we want to be confident that the information we require charities to submit, most of which gets published on the Register, continues to:
- provide the basic information that we need to know as regulator of charities
- be relevant and useful to the public, funders, donors, researchers and others with an interest in charities
- encourage charities to explain their aims, activities and achievements and submit their returns on time
We are seeking your views now because any decisions we take that affect the content of the Annual Return have to be made in time for us to make the changes that may be needed for the Annual Return in 2013. However, we anticipate that some of the issues that are raised will have longer term implications and will contribute to a programme of information development work over the course of several years. We are awaiting the recommendations from Lord Hodgson's review of the Charities Act 2006, part of which asked questions about charity information and the range of different thresholds for information required from charities. We hope to use your responses to help us shape our approach to information and to develop an information strategy that meets future as well as present needs.
What are we consulting on?
We are consulting and would like your views on the information that is collected at the point of registration, and the information submitted by charities through the Annual Update and Annual Return. Annex A sets out the specific information currently collected. It shows which items of information get published on the Register (most of the information collected), and those items that do not get published.
There is some information which is not appropriate for us to publish and which is subject to data protection legislation, for example personal bank details. Whilst there are some restrictions on what can be published, we are interested in your views on whether the current balance is right or whether there is more that could be made publicly available.
In addition to the questions asked in the consultation, we would welcome comments on:
- whether we should collect and publish more, less or different information from charities
- how you use the information available on the Register of Charities
- how useful the information is to you
- whether the updating of basic information should remain an annual requirement or be made possible at any point during the year
What are we not consulting on?
We are not consulting on the content of charity accounts or on the information we collect prior to registration in order to decide whether an organisation is charitable.
Who do we want to hear from?
We want to hear from charities as the providers of information, and from anyone who uses the online Register of Charities, and is interested in our approach to collecting and publishing information about charities.
How can you respond?
You can respond to this consultation by completing an online survey, which includes all the questions asked in the consultation document and also gives you the opportunity to provide any additional comments you may have.
Alternatively, you can email your responses to Informationstrategy@charitycommission.gsi.gov.uk by Tuesday 24 July 2012.
If you do not have access to email your response can be sent by post to:
Charity Commission First Contact
PO Box 1227
Top of page