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Public Benefit Update
15th October 2013
On 16 September 2013 the Charity Commission published its revised guidance on public benefit.
The revised guidance is published in three sections:
1) the public benefit requirement
2) running a charity
3) public benefit reporting
The focus is on governors/trustees making the right decision, in accordance with the charity’s objects, to maximise public benefit and in accordance with the framework for trustee decision-making. The Commission has recently published guidance on trustee decision-making and the decision must be within a range of decisions that governors/trustees could properly make in the circumstances.
Under the guidance ‘poor’ can include those of ‘modest means’ and it is possible to take account of funding from other sources, for example other charitable trusts. The provision should be more than minimal or tokenistic.
Examples are provided of factors that may be taken into account when considering public benefit and it specifically signposts the answers to the Attorney General’s hypothetical questions in the Charity Tribunal case brought by the Independent Schools Council against the Charity Commission.
The issue of public benefit has not gone away and provision must still be made to allow access to those of modest means to the services of all charities that charge fees. Any public benefit provisions must directly further the objects and must be more than tokenistic. They must also be widely publicised. Whilst a whole range of provisions may now be taken into account, it is for the trustees/governors to determine what it appropriate. However, this does not mean that public benefit can now be ignored.
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