On 22 October 2015, the Charity Commission released changes made to the ‘Charging for services: benefits for the poor’ guidance. The updates will affect how fee-charging charities report activities and fulfil their public benefit when filing their annual accounts. The need to update the guidance was highlighted during a debate on the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill which looked at whether or not independent schools were fulfilling their public benefit by making their facilities accessible to those in need. The previous guidance allowed for educational charities and charitable independent schools to share facilities with state schools as a means of fulfilling their public benefit. However, this would only be made available to charity’s who made specific “provision for the poor to benefit” from.
The changes to the guidance will now mean that charities will have to follow a system of best practice. The update proposes that trustees state in their annual accounts their approaches to fulfilling their public responsibility when referring to sports and art related activities. The Charity Commission has provided an example trustee annual report to guide trustees on how this should be reported when filing their annual returns.
Director of Policy and Communications at the Charity Commission, stated: “This small change to our guidance sends a clear signal to independent school charities: if you have good facilities for sports or the arts, sharing them with local state schools is an excellent way for you to make sure you run your charity for the public benefit. We know that many charitable fee-charging schools already open up their facilities to local state schools, and we would encourage trustees of all such charities to consider carefully, and report on, how students in state education benefit from using their school’s facilities”.
Charities are prompted to follow the changes to the guidance with immediate effect.