Charities will need a "strong justification" to restrict their services to certain beneficiary groups if they cannot prove that group has a particular need or disadvantage, according to new guidance on the Equality Act from the Charity Commission.
The guidance, published on Friday, is intended to help charities that restrict their services to groups defined by factors including age, sex, race or religion. It explains how anti-discrimination laws in the Equality Act, which will come into force on 1 October, apply to charities.
A statement from the commission said: "Where an existing or proposed restriction to a particular group of people on certain grounds is not based on the needs or disadvantages experienced by that group, charities will need a strong justification to continue with or include the restriction."
The guidance said it would be legitimate for an employment charity to provide services solely to people from one ethnic group, as long as it could demonstrate unemployment was particularly high among that group.
The commission will publish further, more detailed guidance later this year.