All charities must have charitable purposes or ‘aims’ that are for the public benefit. This is known as ‘the public benefit requirement’. Although all charities already have to meet this requirement, the Charities Act 2006 highlights it by explicitly including public benefit in the definition of a charitable purpose. All organisations wishing to be recognised as charities in England and Wales must now demonstrate, clearly, that their aims are for the public benefit. Previously the law presumed this to be the case for charities that advance education or religion or relieve poverty.
Recently, the Charity Commission published Charities and Public Benefit, our general guidance for all charities on public benefit. That guidance explains what public benefit means and what charity trustees should consider in order to show that their charity’s aims are for the public benefit.
That guidance applies to all charities including those that are concerned with the advancement of religion. However, because for those charities the law has changed we have prepared draft supplementary guidance to help charities for the advancement of religion better understand how the principles of public benefit set out in Charities and Public Benefit apply specifically to them.
We found the response to our public consultation on Charities and Public Benefit very helpful. We hope that this further consultation will give charities operating in this area the opportunity to comment on this draft supplementary guidance, tailored to their particular needs, and thereby help us produce guidance that is as clear and as helpful as possible.
We invite and encourage everyone with an interest in this area to let us have their views.
Suzi Leather Chair
Andrew Hind Chief Executive
This draft supplementary guidance explains how the principles of public benefit set out in Charities and Public Benefit apply specifically to charities for the Advancement of Religion.
It also explains what the advancement of religion, as a charitable aim, means. The Charities Act includes a partial definition of what constitutes a religion. That partial definition states that a religion includes religions that involve belief in more than one god and religions that do not involve belief in a god. Our draft supplementary guidance explains the meaning and effect of that partial definition.
Before issuing this draft supplementary guidance for consultation, we held discussion groups, in September 2006 and October 2007, on public benefit and the advancement of religion. Attendees at those discussion groups included people representing a wide range of religions and other belief systems and with a great deal of knowledge and expertise in that area. The contributions from those discussions were invaluable in helping us prepare this draft supplementary guidance. We are very grateful to everyone who contributed.
It is important to note that this is draft supplementary guidance. We recognise that it requires further development and refinement. We wish to use this consultation as an opportunity to elicit more examples to illustrate points that are made in it, to explore different views and approaches where questions are raised, and to consider where there might be gaps or omissions where further guidance would be helpful. This draft supplementary guidance may raise questions as well as provide answers, but we hope that the consultation process will ultimately result in more meaningful and helpful supplementary guidance.
All trustees are required by law to have regard to our statutory guidance on public benefit, contained in Charities and Public Benefit. This consultation concerns our draft supplementary guidance on Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion, which explains in more detail how the principles of public benefit set out in Charities and Public Benefit apply to charities advancing religion. It also explains what the advancement of religion, as a charitable aim, means. Trustees of charities that advance religion will be required by law to have regard to the sections on public benefit in this supplementary guidance when it is published in its final form.
The principles of public benefit set out in Charities and Public Benefit are the general principles upon which we will assess the public benefit of all charities. We are not expecting large numbers of religious charities to be unable to meet the public benefit requirement, but neither can there be any guarantees that every religious charity currently on the register will be able to show that it meets that requirement. Where a charity has difficulty meeting the public benefit requirement, we will work with its trustees to help them refocus or reconstruct the charity so that it can meet the requirement where that is possible.
The public benefit requirement is not a new requirement for charities. The change is that organisations that advance religion used to benefit from a presumption in law that they did so for the public benefit. With this presumption removed trustees of some charities for the advancement of religion, who might not have thought about their charity’s public benefit, will need to start thinking about this now. We would like to know if charity trustees find this draft supplementary guidance helps them to think about whether their charity meets the public benefit requirement.
This consultation will also be of interest to trustees of charities advancing non-religious belief systems. Non-religious belief systems are not included within the charitable aim of the advancement of religion. However, such belief systems may be charitable as advancing other charitable aims, principally the advancement of the mental and moral improvement or the moral or spiritual welfare of the community. Both religious and non-religious belief systems have to show that their aims are for the public benefit to be recognised as charitable.
Although there may be some convergence between the application of the principles of public benefit for charities advancing religion and those advancing non-religious belief systems, there are important differences between them. We will therefore produce separate draft supplementary guidance for the advancement of non-religious beliefs.
This consultation on draft supplementary guidance on Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion is just one of a series of sub-sector consultations we are carrying out on the effect of the principles of public benefit for specific types of charity.
Other sub-sector consultations include:
It is important to stress that, once our supplementary guidance has been published, we will be carrying out a great deal of discussion and consultation about how it is expected that particular types of charity meet the public benefit requirement. No charity will be expected to make changes overnight. We will take reasonable account of how much time and resources might be needed by a charity in its particular circumstances to make any necessary changes in order to meet the public benefit requirement. Similarly, we will not take any regulatory action without having first discussed the matter with the trustees, and, where appropriate, their advisers, other than in exceptional cases.
We are keen to receive feedback from charities concerned with the areas listed above and will be actively engaging with charities in those sectors as part of those sub-sector consultations.
We will also discuss the issue of public benefit with charities that form part of a particular charity sub-sector, with representative professional and umbrella bodies and with users and potential users of those charities’ services.
Our decisions on the public benefit of charities for the advancement of religion will be based upon the principles of public benefit set out in Charities and Public Benefit.
Our draft supplementary guidance on Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion does not introduce any new, or special, principles of public benefit for those charities. It is intended only to give a more detailed explanation of how the general principles of public benefit apply specifically to charities for the advancement of religion. However, the feedback we receive during our consultations on the public benefit of specific charity sub-sectors will help inform our approach to public benefit as will any decisions taken by the new Charity Tribunal or the courts on public benefit.
The following table sets out an indicative programme for the Commission’s broad approach to public benefit. It includes tentative dates for each stage of the work. These dates will be reviewed as the work progresses and may vary depending, for example, on the volume or nature of the response to the consultations.
Start of four month consultations on:
Everyone is welcome to respond to this consultation and we would be grateful for all responses in writing, which should be headed ‘Consultation on Draft Supplementary Guidance on Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion’ and sent by post to:
Charity Commission Direct
PO Box 1227
or e-mail us.
Please state clearly which consultation you are responding to and provide us with the following standard information, in the order requested, as part of the introduction to your response. This will allow us to manage the responses and use the information more effectively as well as enabling us to keep you up to date with any progress:
The closing date for responses regarding the Consultation on Draft Supplementary Guidance on Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion is 30 June 2008.
Where appropriate we encourage you to provide evidence in support of your response. If you are a representative group please provide a summary of the people and organisations you represent as part of your response. If you represent a charity, it would be helpful if you could state your organisation’s charitable aims.
All information contained within the responses (including personal information) may be published or disclosed in accordance with the access to information regimes, primarily set out in the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Environmental Information Regulations 2004.
If you want information given in response to the consultation to be kept confidential it will only be possible to do so if it is consistent with our legal obligations. There is a statutory Code of Practice under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which public authorities must comply with. This sets out how confidential information must be dealt with. We cannot give assurances that all information will be kept confidential but we will take into account any representations made by you.
If you object to any of the information (including your personal details) which you are giving in response to the consultation being published, please say so. It would be helpful for any such objections to be supported with an explanation of why you regard the information to be confidential so that a decision can be made as to whether there are grounds for not publishing such information.
All responses will be recorded and used by the Charity Commission to inform any amendment and further work that we do relating to charities and public benefit.
We will review our draft supplementary guidance, Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion, taking into account the comments that we have received by the end of the consultation period. We will then aim to publish a summary of the responses to this consultation on our website and issue our supplementary guidance Public Benefit and the Advancement of Religion by the end of 2008.
If you have any further queries about this consultation please contact:
Charity Commission Direct
PO Box 1227
Or you can email us.
We are keen to take account of the opinion of everyone who can help us develop our policy and guidance.
We want to ensure that we are reaching as diverse and representative a group of charities as we can. We are taking steps to make sure that everyone who wants to do so has the opportunity to contribute to our consultations.
To help us monitor the responses to this consultation will you please complete and return the monitoring form which is available on our website.
It is not compulsory to complete this form but if you do respond we will ensure that it is detached from your consultation response on receipt and that the information remains confidential. Alternatively your can send this form separately to:
Customer Services Manager
Charity Commission Direct
PO Box 1227
A copy of this consultation document has been sent to a number of key sector umbrella bodies and other organisations and individuals who have expressed an interest in the subject. If you think there are particular interested parties who should be consulted, please let us know.
This consultation has been designed to comply with the six consultation criteria in the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation:
1. Consult widely throughout the process, allowing a minimum of 12 weeks for written consultation at least once during the development of the policy.
2. Be clear about what your proposals are, who may be affected, what questions are being asked and the timescale for responses.
3. Ensure that your consultation is clear, concise and widely accessible.
4. Give feedback regarding the responses received and how the consultation process influenced the policy.
5. Monitor your department’s effectiveness at consultation, including through the use of a designated consultation co-ordinator.
6. Ensure your consultation follows better regulation best practice, including carrying out an Impact Assessment if appropriate.
Respondents are invited to comment on the extent to which the criteria have been adhered to and to suggest ways of further improving the consultation process. If respondents have comments or complaints about the consultation process they should contact:
Charity Commission Direct
PO Box 1227
Telephone: 0845 300 0218
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