Scheme that could release millions of pounds from 'sleepy trusts' in Scotland begins

There could be as many as 400 dormant trusts in Scotland, the charity regulator estimates

A project to reclaim potentially millions of pounds in charitable funding from inactive trusts has been launched by the regulator in Scotland.

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator and Foundation Scotland said the initiative could unlock additional funding for charities and other community and voluntary groups from so-called “sleepy trusts” .

The Revitalising Trusts project aims to identify charitable trusts registered in Scotland that appear to be inactive and support them to reactivate by using funds that are lying dormant.  

There are more than 3,400 charitable trusts on the Scottish charity register and the regulator said its initial findings suggested about 400 of them might not be using their funds to full effect.

Sleepy trusts are identified as charities that have had either no income or no expenditure over the past five years, or have donated less than 30 per cent of their total income over the same period to help good causes. 

The project will also look at charitable trusts that have failed to submit annual accounts and reports to OSCR within the past five years.

While the full value of Scotland’s sleepy trusts has yet to be established, a similar programme launched by the Charity Commission for England and Wales in 2018 has so far raised £32m for good causes. 

Maureen Mallon, chief executive of OSCR, said: “The public expects charities to use their funds to fulfil their charitable purposes and deliver public benefit, but sometimes charity trustees need a little help or encouragement to do so.

“If trusts are underperforming, we want to find out why and, through our partnership with Foundation Scotland, to offer assistance or a wake-up call where necessary.”

Giles Ruck, chief executive of Foundation Scotland, said his organisation would work to ensure the revitalised funds also supported lesser-known community groups working on the front line. 

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