Not All Charities to be Treated Equally

11 Mar 2011 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 12 Aug 2014

NICVA has written to the Minister for Social Development seeking clarification on plans by the Northern Ireland Executive to reintroduce the presumption of public benefit for certain types of organisation via a Draft Charities (Amendment) Bill.

NICVA understands that it was necessary for the wording of the public benefit test to be amended, as in its current form there are potential problems. The issue concerns a legal technicality and NICVA supported the Department’s proposals to obtain accelerated passage for the rewording of the public benefit section of the Act. 

However, NICVA wasn't aware there was an intention to change the essence of the public benefit test requirement and is very concerned with the Executive’s proposals. 

During the extensive consultation carried out on the key provisions of the Charities Act (NI) 2008, it was widely agreed that any organisation wishing to establish as a charity in Northern Ireland should have to demonstrate that it is for the benefit of the public and that all charities should be treated equally and fairly.  

NICVA is now concerned that if the Executive continues with its proposed amendment to reintroduce the presumption of public benefit for religious institutions and, possibly, for those that are established to relieve or prevent poverty or promote education, it will create an unfair advantage for these types of organisation.  It would also undoubtedly create confusion for charities operating in Northern Ireland. 

NICVA has asked Minister Attwood to clarify whether the proposed action by the Executive creates new law, as it alters what was originally intended in the legislation.  NICVA has also raised concerns that these changes would be given accelerated passage in the Assembly. Changes on this scale, we believe, require full and thorough scrutiny to ensure that sound legislation is progressed.

by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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