Charity law system gets a clean bill of health
The Charities Act has largely proved to be a good piece of legislation, and the Charity Commission is doing a respectable job of supporting the sector despite its limited resources, according to an independent review being published today.
The endorsement forms part of an advisory group review of the Charities Act 2006, which considers key areas of charity law and regulation including rules affecting trustees, public benefit, fundraising and the role of the Charity Commission. It suggests that the current charity law system in the UK is fit for purpose despite the difficult operating environment.
The advisory group, which is made up of a range of experts in charity law and sector representatives, assesses both the Charity Tribunal and the Charity Commission fairly positively. It recommends that the Commission should be recognised by both the sector and Government as the sole regulator for charity law and properly supported to carry out its role effectively.
The report also makes recommendations for a new approach to the Commission’s public benefit guidance, parts of which are currently being revised following the landmark Upper Tribunal Case last year. It recommends a ‘triage’ structure, where all charities receive core guidance and more detailed advice is offered to those where significant public benefit issues may apply.
On the issue of trustee payments, the group recommends that the presumption of unpaid trusteeship should remain and exceptions should be allowed by the Charity Commission on a case by case basis.
The advisory group was set up by NCVO to shadow the work of the government’s own review of the Charities Act, with particular focus on the act’s overall effect on public trust and confidence in charities.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote, who chairs the advisory group, said:
‘It is really positive to see that the charity law system is faring well in the face of difficult economic conditions. This is a good base to build on, so that we can ensure charities are operating in a truly modern legal framework whilst maintaining public trust and confidence in the sector.’
Sir Stuart Etherington, our Chief Executive, said:
‘NCVO has always put itself at the forefront of charity law, particularly through our work on public benefit. We were also a key player in campaigning for the Charities Act 2006, so this was a welcome opportunity to review how to improve and clarify existing law. In order to maintain public trust and confidence in the sector, it is vital that the legal and regulatory framework reflects the needs of voluntary organisations in the modern world.’