New guidance issued after raft of charities complained
England’s Charity Commission has climbed down on guidance on charity campaigning during the EU referendum.
The move came after a number of charities and umbrella bodies complained the guidance was too strict and risked many falling foul of regulations.
Others questioned whether the guidance could withstand legal challenge.
The new guidance no longer says that it is "inevitably by exception" that charities might want to campaign, it says "trustees must be satisfied that such activity is a proper way to support the delivery of the charity’s purposes and is in the best interests of the charity", and softens its rules on what charity workers can say on social media.
Notably the guidance is stricter than that produced by the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the commission, said concerns had been raised about the tone of the guidance.
“Largely this has been welcomed as providing greater clarity to trustees but we understand some see it as a negative approach by the Commission.
“We won’t be changing that approach, but I hope the changes we’ve made show that we are nonetheless ready to listen to concerns and seeking to strike the right balance.”
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said it was a difficult area to strike the right balance but welcomed the move to revise guidance.
He added: “A responsible regulator is one which listens and acts quickly to correct issues when they arise.
“The change in tone is helpful but a number of inconsistencies remain – on the one hand it is helpful that the commission recognises that there are often factors beyond a charities’ control however the new guidance continues to state that charities must not allow their positions to be misconstrued.
"The revised guidance fails to recognise that the outcome of the referendum will be relevant to a number of charities and that some will be considerably affected."