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 the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (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, Chief Executive of NCVO, 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.”

For more information contact Mandy Murphy in NCVO’s press office on 07714 243 942 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Notes to Editors

The members of the Charity Law Review Advisory Group are:

  • Baroness Howe of Idlicote (Chair)
  • Lord Low of Dalston (President of ICEVI – International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment, former President of the European Blind Union and Chair of RNIB from 2000 to 2009)
  • Sir Stuart Etherington (Chief Executive of NCVO)
  • Sir Nicholas Young (Chief Executive of the British Red Cross)
  • Rosie Chapman (former Director of Policy and Effectiveness at the Charity Commission)
  • Dominic Fox (Chief Executive of the Association of Charitable Organisations)
  • Francesca Quint (Barrister, Radcliffe Chambers)
  • Christine Rigby (Partner, Bates Wells Braithwaite)
  • John Stoker (founding Chief Executive of the Mayor's London Bombings Relief Charitable Fund, and former Chief Charity Commissioner)
  • Jonathan Burchfield, Head of Charity Team at Stone King LLP
  • Tanya Steele, Director of Fundraising at Save the Children

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is the umbrella body for the voluntary sector in England, with sister councils in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. NCVO has over 8,300 members, ranging from large national bodies to community groups, volunteer centres, and development agencies working at a local level. With over 280,000 staff and over 13 million volunteers working for our members, we represent and support almost half the voluntary sector workforce.

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