Charities face public benefit test under new Bill

An overhaul of 400-year-old charity law will mean that charities
will have to prove their activities have a public benefit,
writies Sally Gillen.

The draft Charities Bill sets out 12 areas under which charities
can operate but it does not provide a definition of what is meant
by public benefit.

They include the advancement of education, religion, health
citizenship or community development arts and amateur sports.

Home office minister Fiona Mactaggart said the public benefit
test would be the “bedrock” of charitable status but
she added that it would be left to the Charity Commission to decide
on a case-by-case basis if an organisation’s activities
fitted that definition.

Under the Bill, the Charity Commission will have improved
accountability and a new independent tribunal will be established
that will deal decisions made by the commission that charities are
unhappy with.

Measures also included in the Bill are payment for certain
services carried out by trustees and a power to allow them to apply
directly to the commission for relief from personal liability where
they have made honest mistakes.

It is hoped that giving improved guidance and advice to trustees
may help charities recruit the high calibre people needed for the

Mactaggart said that some of the UK’s charity laws that
are 400 years old were in need of “urgent

The National Council For Voluntary Organsations welcomed the
move. Chief executive Stuart Etherington said: “There is a
clear and immediate need to reform charity law. The current system
is complex, outdated and confusing to the public.”

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