Focus group feedback forces Commission backtrack on SIR

The Charity Commission has been forced back to the drawing board over the content of the standard information return after research revealed charities hated it.

The Government has said that charities with income above £1m must produce an information return - a two-page summary of their aims and achievements - for public scrutiny, as part of plans for improvements to charity accountability outlined in last year's Private Action, Public Benefit report.

But a damning verdict from charities on the information return's first draft has forced the commission into a radical rethink.

Focus group work by the commission and the NCVO, based on a Home Office outline information return, revealed the depth of the animosity, described as "negative and emotional".

Charities condemned the outline as "simplistic" and for not giving a "real picture". Some even suspected a hidden agenda, and political motivation.

Rosie Chapman, director of policy at the Charity Commission, said it would look again at the principles of the information return before coming up with a new version in the spring. It would also seek the views of members of the public. "The end result could look quite different to this example," she said.

NCVO policy officer Belinda Pratten added: "Information for the interested public will be different from information the Charity Commission wants. You can't do it all on two sides of A4."

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