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Lord Hodgson to lead Charities Act review

Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts
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Lord Hodgson to lead Charities Act review 1

Governance | Tania Mason | 8 Nov 2011

Conservative peer Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts has been chosen to lead the government’s review of the Charities Act 2006, and is due to publish his report to Parliament by next summer.

The review, which the Act itself promised would take place within five years of it being passed, will look at a whole gamut of issues, including the definition of charity and the role and status of the Charity Commission as the sector’s regulator.

It will also examine the "operation of the Act provisions relating to the definition of charity and...changes in relation to the public benefit requirement" in light of the recent Upper Tribunal judgment on public schools.

The government left it to the last possible day to announce who would lead the review – the Act gained Royal Assent on 8 November 2006.

Announcing Lord Hodgson’s appointment today, the Cabinet Office said that the review would “also look at further reducing the burden of regulation whilst preserving safeguards that protect the public interest”.  In light of this, Lord Hodgson is an obvious choice, as he chaired the Red Tape Task Force which recommended ways the government could make it easier to run a charity.

He is also president of the NCVO, chairman of the Armed Forces Charities Advisory Company and a trustee of Fair Trials International.

Lord Hodgson said: “I want to discover where the legal framework is working and where it’s letting charities and the public down so we can try and put it right.

"The Charities Act 2006 changed the legal framework and it is right that the effect of these changes should now be assessed. It is also important that the law be made fit for purpose looking ahead, given the new challenges and opportunities that charities now face.”

He added that he hoped that sector representatives would help him carry out the review by submitting responses and agreeing to be interviewed when he calls for evidence, as they did when he conducted the Red Tape Review.

The Act itself states that the review must address the legislation's effect on:

  • excepted charities
  • public confidence in charities
  • the level of charitable donations
  • the willingness of individuals to volunteer
  • the status of the Charity Commission as a government department, and
  • any other matters the minister considers appropriate

The full terms of reference for the review also specify that it will cover the licensing regime for public collections, the success of the Fundraising Standards Board, the success of the Charity Tribunal and thresholds for registration of charities.

The terms of reference are published on the Cabinet Office website.

Unremunerated position

Lord Hodgson will work for one day a week on the review and will not be paid. The Office for Civil Society said he will be supported by officials from the OCS and “an expert charity lawyer brought in for up to one day per week and paid at significantly below commercial rates”.

Nick Hurd, minister for civil society, said: “This is an important opportunity to get the legal framework for charities right. Charities play a hugely important role in society and must be supported with a clear and effective legal framework. I want to see less red tape for charities and smarter safeguards so the public can be more confident in their support for charities.”

The NCVO has already set up its own independent group which will shadow Lord Hodgson’s review.

Michael Wilson
8 Nov 2011

The best thing that Lord Hodgson could do is recommend the creation of a charities ombudsman to deal with those matters that are not covered by the charities commission but which cause a great deal of anguish for the people who have run ins with charities.

There is a petition on the government e-petitions website asking for this. Please sign and share.

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/645

Create a Charities Ombudsman

Responsible department: Cabinet Office

This petition calls on the government to create a Charities Ombudsman with the power to deal with complaints about charities and the authority to order a charity to provide adequate redress if a complaint is upheld.. The Charity Commission is unable to get involved in a wide range of complaints because they are not within its remit. If a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of a Charity's own internal complaints procedure their only remaining option is the legal system. With legal aid being cut drastically this is beyond the reach of the majority of people. Many charities are now running services or even acting as law enforcement agencies, so it is important that they are seen to be properly regulated and to have an effective and objective independent external complaints procedure. We want Parliament to debate this issue.

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