Review of public benefit 'could undermine the case for charity'

National Council for Voluntary Organisation warns that the judicial review over fee-charging schools must consider the wider impact of its decisions

Belinda Pratten, head of policy at the NCVO
Belinda Pratten, head of policy at the NCVO

Public trust in charities could be undermined by the forthcoming Upper Tribunal hearing on public benefit instigated by the Independent Schools Council, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

The tribunal is due to consider in May an application by the ISC for a judicial review of the Charity Commission’s guidance on how fee-charging schools can demonstrate they provide public benefit.

At the same time, the tribunal will also consider a reference from the Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve, which asks it to clarify how the public benefit test applies to fee-charging schools.

The NCVO has been appointed as an independent party to the case, which means it will be able to provide a written submission to judges and could give oral evidence to the hearing.

The Education Review Group, a group of lawyers, academics and voluntary sector leaders that was set up to provide evidence to the Charity Commission on public benefit in education, has also been appointed as an independent party to the case.

Belinda Pratten, head of policy at the NCVO, told Third Sector: "We want the charity tribunal to ensure it considers the wider impact of its decisions, in terms of how public benefit is perceived by members of the public and what this might mean for charities more generally.

"If members of the public see the case as allowing organisations to pick and choose who they deliver services to, I think the case for charity could be undermined," she said. "If that happens in the long term, people may be less willing to give time and money to good causes."

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