Charity Guidance on Public Benefit

The Charity Commission has published its new public benefit guidance, after being ordered by the Charity Tribunal to rewrite it after the independent schools case.

The new version is split into three short guides:

• Public benefit: the public benefit requirement
• Public benefit: running a charity
• Public benefit: reporting

The guides explain what is required to show that an organisation is a charity (by having purposes that are for the public benefit), what trustees’ duties are in carrying out those purposes for the public benefit, and how trustees should report on the public benefit their charity provides.

They also explain that the trustees of charities which charge fees for services or facilities that the poor cannot afford must make provision for the poor to benefit. The guidance indicates that it is for trustees to decide how to do this, but they must act “reasonably and make more than a minimal provision”.

The Commission was ordered by the Charity Tribunal to rewrite its public benefit guidance after the Independent Schools Council mounted a successful legal challenge to it two years ago.

The new guidance separates the public benefit requirement in relation to charitable status from the public benefit test in relation to the charity’s operations. The Commission hopes this will reassure charitable schools and other charities that charge high fees that they will not have their charitable status removed if they fail to run their charity for the public benefit.

The new guidance is available on the Commission’s website.

In Scotland the Scottish Charities Regulator is currently conducting reviews of the public benefit requirement for fee paying schools, having highlighted this as a “high priority group” requiring review. There have been several high profile failures, including a school formerly attended by Tony Blair, with the Regulator ordering the schools to address the issue within a defined time scale or risk losing their charitable status.

for more information and guidance regarding running a charity or Charities reporting contact our charity team at your local office, on 0845 117 5500 or using our online form.

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