Registration of charities in Northern Ireland should begin this autumn after the bill to amend the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 gained Royal Assent last Friday.
The next step is for the Charity Commission Northern Ireland (CCNI) to begin a consultation on its public benefit and registration guidance, which it will publish on its website on 4 February.
Chief charity commissioner Tom McGrath (pictured) said: “The Commission is delighted to welcome the news that Royal Assent has been received and we now have a robust Charities Act. The legislative problem that has held up registration to date has come as a great source of frustration for the Commission and we appreciate the patience of all working in the charity sector.”
CCNI will now hold 12 consultation events over 13 weeks for charities, stakeholders and members of the public interested in charity registration.
It estimates that there are between 7,000 and 12,000 waiting to be registered and warned that “registration will not happen overnight”.
Before full registration begins there will be a pilot involving 20 organisations. Charities do not need to do anything at the moment, the regulator advised.
Charity registration in Northern Ireland was put on hold in 2010 after a technical issue meant that the primary legislation needed to be amended to clarify the public benefit requirement.
The new public benefit requirement in the bill means that charities have to demonstrate that they have a charitable purpose which benefits the public.