Commission reveals public benefit test guinea pigs

The Charity Commission has announced a list of 12 voluntary sector organisations that will be the first to be subjected to tests that determine whether they operate for the public benefit.

The tests will focus on religious charities, fee-charging residential care homes and fee-charging schools.

Among the charities chosen by the commission are Christian charity the Church Mission Society, the Manchester Grammar School Foundation and the Cornwall Old People's Housing Society.

The charities were selected for testing because their activities were presumed to be for the public benefit before rule changes made as a result of the Charities Act 2006. The regulator also wanted to select a group of charities that were "different in character" and had a range of income levels.

Adrian White, director of finance and corporate services at the Church Mission Society, said: "The advancement of religion as a public benefit is a hot topic, but we have no doubt that we will pass the test."

The commission has also published summaries of the responses to its consultations on public benefit guidance relating to the advancement of religion, the relief of poverty, the advancement of education and fee-charging.

Some respondents questioned whether there was a legal basis to consider fee-charging as part of a public benefit test.

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