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Charity Commission Pledges Review of Health Charities

Charity Commission Pledges Review of Health Charities

Health Charities and Governance

The Charity Commission is to carry out a review of the law around the advancement of health as a charitable purpose after being threatened with legal action.

The Good Thinking Society, a charity which promotes scientific thinking and claims to “battle against irrationality and pseudoscience”, threatened to apply for a judicial review because it said the Commission was failing to address concerns that some health charities were not providing a public benefit. The Society claimed that some bodies on the register of charities promoted medical treatments which were medically proven not to work, or which were unproven, and that these organisations should not be allowed charitable status. The Society singled out homeopathy for the purposes of the judicial review.

Moratorium urged on registering some health charities

In a letter, the Good Thinking Society called on the Commission to place a moratorium on registering charities whose charitable purpose is the advancement of health and which promote homeopathy, until a review is completed. The Commission agreed to conduct a review, which will consider whether it has taken a lawful position on charities promoting alternative medicine, including those that discourage vaccination.

The Society welcomed the Commission’s response, and said it would not proceed with the court case for the time being.

Michael Marshall, the Society’s project director, said: “It is highly encouraging to see the Charity Commission make a clear commitment to reviewing how it applies charity law in relation to alternative medicine . . . By law a charity must offer a public benefit. Clearly the promotion of an ineffective treatment, especially to very ill and vulnerable people, cannot be of benefit to the public.”

A Commission spokesman said: “We are planning a review of this area, which we expect to complete by July 2017. As the registrar and regulator of charities, the Commission has the task of deciding which organisations are charities, but we recognise that we are not the authority in the efficacy of non-traditional medical treatments.”

“These are issues of substantial debate with a variety of opinions. They require careful consideration and we will carry out our review constructively, consulting with the relevant people where appropriate, to determine whether to change our guidance on this topic. For the time being, our existing guidance continues to apply,” the Commission added.

Regulator freezes bank accounts at animal charity

The Charity Commission has frozen the bank accounts of Action Aid for Animals after the charity failed to submit accounts and appeared to be operating with insufficient trustees. The Commission has also launched a statutory inquiry to investigate the charity’s financial controls, administration and governance, and to examine whether there had been any mismanagement or misconduct.

Action Aid for Animals, whose objectives are to rehome abused animals in England, Croatia, Hungary and Romania, says it strongly refutes any implication of dishonesty in the handling of its finances and said all funds had been invested in its charitable mission.

The Commission has been in contact with the charity in relation to its governance since 2012, and in November 2015 it issued an action plan ordering it to improve and to file its accounts, which had been overdue since 2013. A statement from the Commission said trustees had failed to comply with the action plan and it was possible the charity was operating with too few trustees.

The Commission has issued an order preventing trustees from parting with assets without the regulator’s permission and restricting transactions relating to the charity’s operations overseas.

Charity welcome Commission’s investigation

Kendra Pinder, the charity’s chair, said: “We welcome this investigation because I have absolutely no concerns and I know that every penny coming into our accounts can be shown to have been spent on the animals.”

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