Commission consults Sikh groups

The Charity Commission is holding its first ever consultation event with Sikh charities this Thursday.

The Birmingham seminar is part of a nationwide campaign run by the charity watchdog to develop its knowledge of the issues facing minority faith charities.

The commission has already held various similar events since the campaign was launched in 2005, including five meetings with charities from the UK’s biggest minority faith, Islam. A broad range of charities is invited, ranging from small, local ones with incomes as low as £1,300, to giants with incomes of £20m to £30m.

Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, chair of the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha organisation, said: "We are delighted that the Charity Commission recognises the important part Sikh charities play in the charitable sector. We look forward to discussing the work we do, the challenges we face, and how better regulation can help us become more effective with the commission."

Jim Melton Bradley, minority faith project leader at the Charity Commission, said the project had been prompted by some mutual misunderstandings between the commission and minority faith charities. “It was clear something wasn’t right,” he said. “So we decided to ask them what they thought about our services and what we could do better to allow them to get on with their work.”

The process also involves educating charities about the commission’s remit. “A lot of people have come to us and asked us about Gift Aid,” said Bradley. “We had to point out to them that it is the Inland Revenue who deal with that.”

Bradley said it was too early to talk about emerging themes because he is still sifting through the evidence in preparation for a report that he plans to release by the end of the summer. However, he said one obvious improvement the commission could make was to produce its literature in more languages.

He also cited the case of a black evangelical church whose pastor was appropriating its money for himself. Congregation members respected him for his wealth because the Christian parable of the talents encourages people to use money to make more money.

“We said to them: ‘Fine – but you need to have safeguards to make sure no-one is stealing your money’,” said Bradley.

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