Charity Commission publishes revised public benefit guidance

Categories: Leadership.

The guidance explains what is required to show that an organisation is a charity, what trustees’ duties are in carrying out those purposes for the public benefit and how trustees should report on the public benefit their charity provides in their annual report. The guidance is split into three short, high level guides:

  • Public Benefit: the public benefit requirement
  • Public Benefit: running a charity
  • Public Benefit: reporting

The Charity Commission was ordered by the Charity Tribunal to rewrite its public benefit guidance after the Independent Schools Council mounted a successful legal challenge to it two years ago.

William Shawcross, Chairman of the Charity Commission, said: “Public benefit is an important part of what makes the work of charities so valuable to the community. Trustees therefore need to understand how their charity benefits the public, and work to deliver and report on those benefits.

“Public benefit is a complex area of charity law to explain. But, for most charities, demonstrating that their purposes are for the public benefit, carrying them out for the public benefit and reporting on their public benefit, is straightforward.

“There is no statutory definition of public benefit so its meaning will continue to develop through decisions made by the courts. As the law develops, we will keep our guidance under review.”

Elizabeth Chamberlain, senior policy officer at NVCO, said: “The Commission has made good work of the challenging job of distilling centuries of case law into guidance for trustees. We remain of the view that it would be helpful for parliament to establish some high-level principles of public benefit to which the Commission and trustees could have regard.”

Earlier this month, the government agreed with recommendations that a statutory definition of public benefit should not be pursued at this time, in its response to reports by the Public Administration Select Committee and Lord Hodgson on the Charities Act 2006.

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