Coronavirus: Updated Charity Commission guidance considers which charities can help with pandemic

The Charity Commission’s Coronavirus guidance for charities has been further updated to include the Commission’s consideration of the extent to which the charity sector can undertake activities aiming to help with the effects of the virus.

There is clearly a lot of willingness in the sector to take action to tackle the Coronavirus and its impact, but not all charities will find themselves in a position to help. It will depend on their Objects, or charitable aims, as set out in their governing documents.

The Commission highlights that charities with the following Objects may be able to offer support during the pandemic:

  • the relief of poverty
  • the relief of need hardship or distress
  • the relief of the elderly
  • the advancement of education or advancement in life of young people and
  • the advancement of health.

Charities with a general charitable Object of furthering any charitable purpose will also be able to act in these circumstances.

Other charities may also be able to take action, but more indirectly, such as a charity with the aim of, for example, “the education of the public in the creation, enjoyment, appreciation and understanding of arts”, which can use other channels such as social media to relieve isolation and inform – and a good example of this is the Royal Academy’s daily drawing challenge on Twitter.

The guidance also emphasises that before starting new activities in response to the pandemic, a charity should check not just that its Objects allow this, but also that in doing so the charity will be complying with any restrictions, perhaps as to classes of beneficiaries or geographical locations for example, contained in its governing document.

Lastly, the Commission explains that if a charity’s Objects do not allow it to carry out activities in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, it may be possible to change the Objects – however, this will require either an appropriate power in the governing document or in statute, or, in the absence of any such power, the permission of the Commission.

A company or CIO would, for example, need permission from the Commission to make such a “regulated alteration”.

For more on charities and guidance relating to the Coronavirus to date, visit our Coronavirus hub.

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