Three-year-old Law Commission recommendations could save charities affected by pandemic

Reforms put forward in 2017 were designed to save charities time and also money, but have not yet been implemented

(Photograph: Chris Ryan/Getty)
(Photograph: Chris Ryan/Getty)

Implementing the recommendations identified three years ago by the Law Commission’s charity law project could be the difference between charities collapsing or surviving the coronavirus pandemic, a legal expert has warned.

The third anniversary of the publication of the report, Technical Issues in Charity Law, passed this week.

It made 43 recommendations designed to ease the administration and regulation of charities. The law firm BDB Pitmans said the report was generally welcomed across the sector and was accompanied by a draft charities bill.

The reforms were expected to not only save charities a large amount of time, but also costs running into millions of pounds.

But after more than three years of waiting for a response, Kate Parkinson, senior associate at BDB Pitmans, said the issues identified in 2017 were no less relevant today, and could provide significant benefits in a challenging coronavirus operating environment. 

“The impact of leaving such matters unaddressed may be more profound. As Lord Hodgson identified at the time, although its recommendations may appear to be highly technical, cumulatively I believe they would have a huge impact on the sector, helping trustees to work effectively in modern-day conditions,” she said.

Parkison said that while the sector was operating on tight margins, the efficiency savings arising from the report’s implementation would have been welcome. 

“When faced with the unprecedented challenges of Covid-19, the aggregate benefit of following through on these recommendations, however modest they might appear when looked at individually, could ultimately have made the difference between survival or collapse for some organisations.”

Nick Hopkins, one of the law commissioners, said: “Our recommendations for reform in our report on technical issues in charity law would remove unnecessary bureaucracy for charities, ensuring they use their time and money in the best way to support their good causes, while still providing necessary oversight to ensure public confidence. 

“We look forward to the government’s response.”

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport did not provide a comment before publication of this story. 

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