The SHG response to the Charities Act Review Consultation


The Self Help Group for farmers, pet owners and others experiencing difficulties with the RSPCA (The SHG) was set up to provide support and legal advice to people being investigated or prosecuted by the RSPCA, whose activities and prosecutions are often controversial and have attracted a great deal of criticism. That remit has grown and we run a legal help line and put people in touch with specialist solicitors and veterinary experts.


Regulation of Charities

We believe that there should be a charities ombudsman who has the power to investigate complaints about charities and if necessary to order redress. We have a petition running on the government e-petition site and perhaps the wording of that petition sums up the situation :xxxxxxx

Create a Charities Ombudsman
Responsible department: Cabinet Office
This petition calls on the government to create a Charities Ombudsman with the power to deal with complaints about charities and the authority to order a charity to provide adequate redress if a complaint is upheld..
The Charity Commission is unable to get involved in a wide range of complaints because they are not within its remit.
If a complainant is dissatisfied with the outcome of a Charity's own internal complaints procedure their only remaining option is the legal system. With legal aid being cut drastically this is beyond the reach of the majority of people.
Many charities are now running services or even acting as law enforcement agencies, so it is important that they are seen to be properly regulated and to have an effective and objective independent external complaints procedure.
We want Parliament to debate this issue.The petition runs until the 5th of August and so far has 438 signatures.


We believe that the lack of an open and accessible complaints procedure damages all charities in the perception of the public.


Typical examples of the problems people may experience are trespass to land and buildings. Unlawful removal and refusal to return animals and other property. Bullying. Demands that animals are signed over with no solicitor present or legal advice available. Even such minor problems as being unable to contact the people concerned to find out what has happened deserve proper consideration and to be properly addressed.


Without an external and independent regulator it is impossible for our clients to have their complaints dealt with. Who can afford to employ solicitors to take action when legal aid is virtually non-existent?


All other sectors pay for their own regulation, so why should the charity sector be any different? If charities can afford to pay high salaries to their Chief Executives and other staff then they should not plead poverty when faced with paying for their own regulatory regime.

Public Benefit
7. There should be a proper statutory definition of “public benefit”.
8. The SHG believes that any public benefit test should allow the damage that the charitable activity does to the public to be considered and that any individual or organisation should be able to petition the Charity Commission to ask them to determine whether the charity has either moved so far away from its original aims and objectives that it needs to review its position or that the original aims and objectives are no longer fit for function or needed in today's society.
9. Many charities have become little more than political campaigners with their other activities focused on providing evidence for those campaigns. This is not charity. Charity is about actually helping someone or something.
Fund raising.
. 10.

The SHG has concerns about fund raising. We believe that there should be a cooling off period for anyone who is persuaded to make a donation to a charity in the same way that there is for signing up for say double glazing.


We are also concerned that people do not realise the significance of leaving large legacies to charities or the effect it will have on their families. One only has to look at recent cases where wills have been challenged to see that there is much unhappiness out there. It is short sighted of charities to effectively 'take the money and run' because disgruntled beneficiaries will not go on to bequest legacies or become donors to charities. Nor will people who read about what they consider to be sharp practice by charities.

12. Fund raising should be externally regulated. If it should turn out that there is to be no charities ombudsman then fund raising regulation should either fall into the remit of the financial ombudsman or Consumer Direct and Trading Standards.
13. Proper sanctions should be available to the regulator otherwise the act of regulation becomes a pointless exercise. Chief Executives and trustees should be personally liable to be fined if their charities persistently breach the rules.

xx Anne Kasica & Ernest Vine


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