Fresh charities legislation in Northern Ireland will resolve an issue that had invalidated much of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI)’s work.
In 2019 a legal ruling found that CCNI board could not delegate decision-making to members of staff, this meant that decisions about charity registrations and investigations were invalid.
The new Charities Bill was introduced last year to address some of the issues and passed its final stage last week. It is now awaiting royal assent.
Deirdre Hargey, communities minister, said: “I am delighted that this important piece of legislation has passed final stage. The bill will bring real benefits to over 6,500 charities and those that rely on them.
“I believe that the provisions in this bill, together with the Review of Charity Regulation which has just been published, position us well to reclaim public and stakeholder confidence in charity regulation here.”
The new act means that most of previous decisions by CCNI staff will be considered lawful, except where they could affect individuals’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.
Anyone who wants to appeal a decision that has now been made lawful, will have 91 days from the date of royal assent to appeal.
The legislation also reinstates the requirement for charities to compile accounts for their first full financial year after 1 April 2022.
Consultation to delegate decisions to staff
The bill means that CCNI can create a scheme of delegation, so that some decisions can be taken by staff.
This will be subject to public consultation.
CCNI: ‘The act will bring certainty’
CCNI is now developing updated guidance that it will publish on its website.
In a statement it said: “The Commission has welcomed the progress of the legislation, noting that it will effectively reinstate the register of charities and give certainty to charities, the public, funders and others as to which organisations are registered charities in Northern Ireland.”
It added: “The act will bring certainty to all those decisions, and reassurance to charities that they can rely upon them and any transactions which have been carried out on foot of such decisions. The safeguards within the Act ensure that additional strain will not be placed on charities and any lingering uncertainty will be lifted.”