The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, is today launching a three-month consultation on its revised public benefit guidance for all charities.
The revised guidance explains what the public benefit requirement means and sets out what all charity trustees need to know to make sure that they are running their charity for the public benefit. The guidance is presented in a new online format on the Commission's website, making it easier for trustees to select the parts of the guidance relevant to their charities. The Commission is keen to hear trustees' views on this new format as a possible model for other Commission guidance in the future.
The guidance explains that for an organisation to be a charity its purposes, which set out what it can do, have to be only those that the law recognises can be charitable and which are for the public benefit. It explains that demonstrating public benefit means showing who benefits from the charity's purposes, and what the benefits are. The guidance also more clearly explains what charity trustees' public benefit duties are, namely:
The guidance indicates what forms part of the Commission's public benefit guidance to which trustees are required by law to have regard, and what is additional explanatory information. The guidance is the minimum that charity trustees need to know about public benefit. It is not intended to answer every public benefit question.
The guidance covers a number of areas, including:
Respondents will be able to post responses and comments on the guidance as the consultation goes along on a blog, allowing real time feedback during the consultation, as well as submitting any formal responses. The Commission would like to have comments from trustees on both the content of the guidance and the new online format and layout.
Dame Suzi Leather, Chair of the Charity Commission said;
“Public benefit is the defining characteristic of charity but is a far from simple concept. We have worked hard to write guidance that accurately reflects the law but is accessible for a charity trustee who just wants to know what to think about when making decisions that might affect their charity's public benefit. We hope the online format will make this easier. We invite comments on both the form and content of the revised guidance and also hope that the consultation blog will enable real time responses to views expressed.”
The Commission has a responsibility to provide guidance to trustees and raise awareness of the public benefit requirement. The new guidance will replace the existing public benefit guidance and supplementary fee-charging guidance. The Commission's supplementary guidance on advancing religion, advancing education and relieving and preventing poverty will be reviewed in the light of this consultation. The Commission has also published its legal analysis of public benefit for comment.
The revised guidance takes into account relevant legislative changes since it was first produced in 2008, including the introduction of the Charities Act 2011, the Equalities Act 2010 and relevant judgments of the Tribunal and Upper Tribunal. The consultation process will also take account of Lord Hodgson's Review of the Charities Act once published.
See the consultation blog for further information. The consultation will close on 26 September 2012.
Q1. What should trustees do in the meantime?
A: Trustees should continue to follow the existing amended guidance on the Commission's website, and the Q and A for trustees.
Q2. What has changed in the guidance?
A: The main change is that we have re-written the guidance in an entirely new format. In doing that, we have updated the guidance to reflect changes in legislation since the guidance was first published in 2008, which includes the Equalities Act 2010, the Charities Act 2011 and relevant decisions of the Tribunal and Upper Tribunal. We have also incorporated guidance for fee-charging charities into this guidance, rather than having a separate document.
Q3. What does this mean for fee-charging charities?
The main sections of the guidance which cover who benefits, and any restrictions on who benefits is covered under section 2 - Restricting who benefits. This section reflects the decision of the Upper Tribunal in October 2011.
Q4. The guidance doesn't appear to define what it means for trustees 'to ensure that the poor can benefit in a way that is more than minimal or tokenistic'.
This is covered in paragraphs 215 & 222 of the Upper Tribunal Judgment. The Upper Tribunal decision explains that trustees must decide for themselves how their charity provides for the poor, acting fairly in the interests of all beneficiaries and taking into account the circumstances of their charity. [paras 217, 220]
For further information please contact the Charity Commission Press office.
1. Information on the Upper Tribunal's decision can be found on the Commission's website.
2. The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. See www.charitycommission.gov.uk for further information.
3. Our Vision is: 'Charities you can support with confidence'; our mission is to be the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales, acting in the public's interest to ensure that;
4. The Charity Commission Media Information Centre, available on the Commission's website, provides useful and relevant background information specifically for journalists, particularly in relation to issues that regularly attract press interest.
5. There are over 160,000 registered charities, some of which have similar names or working names. To avoid confusion, each registered charity can be identified by its individual registration number, which can be checked on the Register of Charities.
Top of page
© 2012 Crown Copyright Copyright Notice | Disclaimer and Privacy Statement | Cookies