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Commission to consult on public benefit guidance

Commission to consult on public benefit guidance
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Commission to consult on public benefit guidance

Governance | Jonathan Last | 27 Jun 2012

The Charity Commission has today launched a three-month consultation on its revised public benefit guidance for charities, including a new online platform that features a blog for responses.

The Commission was forced to rewrite its guidance late last year after the Independent Schools Council successfully challenged it in the law courts.  However, the Commission was already working on a comprehensive rewrite even before the case came before the Upper Tribunal, and it is this new draft that has now been published.

The guidance covers a number of areas, including: a breakdown of defining ‘charitable purposes’ and making sure the charity is run for the public’s benefit; an explanation of technical terms; what needs to be known when setting up a charity and then running one, and advice on writing a trustees’ annual report. The guidance also dissects exactly what trustees’ public benefit duties are.

Trustees can select the parts of the guidance relevant to their charity via the Commission’s website. The sector regulator says it is keen to hear trustees’ views on this new online format as a possible model for its guidance in the future.

The revised guidance for consultation can be found on the Charity Commission website here. The consultation will close on 26 September 2012.

Blogging feedback

As well as submitting any formal responses, 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.

The Commission would like to have comments from trustees on both the content of the guidance and the new online format and layout.

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. 

This new guidance will replace the existing public benefit guidance and supplementary fee-charging guidance, and the Commission’s supplementary guidance on advancing religion, advancing education and relieving and preventing poverty will be reviewed in the light of this consultation. It has also published its legal analysis of public benefit for comment.

Dame Suzi Leather, outgoing 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.”

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