Scottish organisations pass pilot public benefit test

All of the organisations that took part in the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator's pilot scheme to review the status of charities in the country demonstrated that they provided public benefit, the regulator has announced. However, two organisations needed adjustment to their constitution to fully meet the charity test.

Voluntary Action Fund and John Wheatley College were given a year and two years respectively to meet the OSCR’s requirements.

Sixteen charities, including schools, universities, playgroups and community groups, took part in the pilot to be assessed against the charity test set out in the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. The scheme was a precursor to a full rolling review of Scotland’s 23,500 charities.

Under the Rolling Review, charities failing to comply with the regulator’s demand would be removed from the charity register. Jane Ryder, chief executive of the OSCR, said she thought this would be the case for only a minority of charities.

“It will be a dialogue with the charity, and we will issue direction during the review,” she told Third Sector. “It might take years before we reach some of the smaller charities, so I think this is a good opportunity for some housekeeping. Charities should look at their constitution and update it if they have outgrown it.”

Ryder added that OSCR was pleased with the outcome of the 14-month pilot. “We are satisfied that our general approach will be welcomed by charities as transparent, consistent and fair,” she said.

Asked whether the Rolling Review would prevent fraud scandals such as those involving Moonbeams or Breast Cancer Research in 2003 from re-occurring, Ryder said she felt confident the monitoring system would pick up such deviances, although it was not entirely foolproof.

The Rolling Review Pilot Report said that the scheme had been a valuable learning experience for all parties involved. OSCR had learned lessons about assessing certain criteria of the charity test and charities had learned about the work involved with the review process, it said.

Formal assessment will start in September this year and 30 charities will be assessed over the first nine months. The second phase of the review will focus on those charities whose activities or constitutions might compromise their compliance with the charity test. This might include organisations whose activities might be not be in pursuit of charitable purposes, such as student associations, or those with constitutions that might allow for ministerial control of activities, such as further education colleges, or apply “unduly restrictive conditions on accessing benefits”, such as university fees.

The full review of the 23,500 charities will be phased in over 10 years.

Charities involved in the pilot


The High School of Dundee
The University of Dundee
Eastriggs and Dornock Childrens’ Gala Fund
Pollokshaws Methodist Church
Voluntary Action Fund
John Wheatley College
Coalburn Miners Welfare Charitable Society
East Cults Playgroup
Midstocket Playgroup
St. Devenick’s Playgroup
Kingswells Playgroup
Milltimber Community Association
Oldmachar Community Playgroup
Kids Crew
Culter Community Playgroup
Cloverfield Playgroup

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