Too many applications for charity registration are substandard or incomplete, NI regulator says

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland says the process has been 'slower than we'd hoped'

Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has been slower than expected in adding charities to its register because too many applications have been substandard or incomplete, the regulator has said.

CCNI began registering charities in Northern Ireland in December 2013. It has registered 945 so far and is processing more than 1,200 applications. It expects to register between 7,000 and 12,000 organisations in total, a process that is expected to take at least three years.

Frances McCandless, chief executive of the regulator, said this week that "registration has been slightly slower than we’d hoped".

She said: "The reason is that the applications are of a lower quality than we had hoped, so the case workers are having to put a lot of time into to-ing and fro-ing with applicants to get the proper information."

Reasons included missing documentation, poor public benefit statements that did not adequately explain the public benefit arising from charities' purposes, or failure to explain what the organisation did to further its purposes in a way that would be clear to anyone looking at their entry in the online register, a CCNI spokeswoman said.

"Registration is a new process, so the commission understands that some applicants may require additional assistance with elements such as charitable purposes and public benefit," the spokeswoman said.

"However, the high number of poor applications means that more resources than anticipated are being targeted at supporting charities through the process. The commission is working to mitigate this by strongly encouraging charities to use the guidance and support available, both online and via the dedicated registration workshops.

"This guidance includes a purposes and public benefit toolkit, an online registration tutorial, a 'common errors and how to avoid them’ checklist and guidance documents. The biggest tip the commission can give to charities is to use the free guidance available."

Three applications have so far been rejected because they did not meet the legal requirements an organisation must meet to be considered a charity.

These were: Rathfriland Market House Development Association, the Judge Learned Hand Foundation for Civil and Religious Liberties and the Reformed Theological College.

The deadline for organisations to come forward and identify themselves as having to register as charities passed at the end of 2014. CCNI warned last month that any organisation that failed to come forward could face court action.

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