The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
Muslim led charities make a significant contribution to relief and development efforts worldwide, with British Muslims donating over in excess of £100 million in the month of Ramadan in recent years according to the Muslim Charities Forum. However, Baroness Warsi believes Muslim charities have been subject to an increasingly disproportionate focus from the Charity Commission since 2012.
Her comments at the NCVO annual Hinton Lecture on 21st November will ring true for many people working in Muslim charities that have in recent years faced compliance visits, statutory investigations, monitoring, frozen bank accounts and blacklisting.
For our clients working in this sector, the perception of increased scrutiny has come hand in hand with legislative changes and the implementation of the government’s PREVENT policy which places a duty on bodies such as the Charity Commission to have due regard to preventing terrorism whilst exercising its functions. In 2014 the Chair of the Charity Commission Sir William Shawcross commented:
“The problem of Islamist extremism and charities … is not the most widespread problem we face in terms of abuse of charities, but is potentially the most deadly. And it is, alas, growing.”
It is not hard to see why Muslim charities, faced with such sweeping and ill-judged assertions, feel they are perceived as suspects and held to a higher standard than other charities.
The Charity Commission, which disagrees with the Baroness’s comments, publishes a regular analysis of charities subject to compliance visits and statutory inquiries to reassure the public that its regulatory activities are even handed and no particular group is under or overrepresented.
Whilst the Charity Commission must continue to ensure there is no actual or perceived bias, the need for improved governance arrangements in the charity sector cannot be overemphasised. This requires acknowledging the need to upskill trustees who are often dedicated community activists who find themselves laden with a host of unexpected legal and fiduciary duties.
We have seen that instances of poor governance and a lack of adequate financial controls and record keeping can open the door for the Charity Commission to intervene and start a series of questions about links to alleged extremist organisations and individuals. This can be costly, time consuming and demoralising for staff and trustees even where the charity is ultimately found to be fully compliant.
One way to reduce the risk of such issues is to avoid giving the Charity Commission a reason to intervene in a charity. Trustees should seek professional advice to ensure they can easily demonstrate their decision making processes, due diligence checks and have adequate policies and procedures in place to protect the charity from fraud and abuse. For charities that are feeling the spotlight it is vital they can display their governance arrangements in a clear and indisputable manner.
Ultimately, good governance will ensure that charities are able to focus on the issues that matter to them and continue providing their beneficiaries with the services they rely on.
For advice or assistance on the issues raised in this article or any aspect of charity governance please contact Safa Murad on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0121 212 7433, or your usual contact at ACS.
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
Not only has the possession stay been extended until 20 September, the notice periods to be given to tenants has been extended in certain circumstances with some important exceptions.
The Court has confirmed that a party cannot withhold its consent in order to re-write the original bargain.
Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, building safety continues to be a key concern for social housing providers and their residents.
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