17/07/2006

NI commission to regulate local charities

Plans for a Charities Commission and Register of Charities in Northern Ireland were issued for consultation today.

The Minister for Social Development, David Hanson, said that proposed new charities legislation would change the way that government supports charities and would require them to demonstrate to the public that they are well managed.

The Minister said: "I believe the overwhelming majority of charities in Northern Ireland are well managed. But I believe that it is important to ensure that the proposed legislation strengthens the charity sector and protects it from potential abuse by those who have previously seen the lack of a charity commission in Northern Ireland as providing a soft touch. It is important that the public can be confident that when they donate to a charity that it is well run and that their money is going to that charitable cause."

At present there is no requirement for charities to register nor is there a regulating body for charities such as exists in England and Scotland. This legislation will bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

The proposals also contain new arrangements to control public collections through a system of licences and permits which any body wanting to collect money or goods would have to obtain.

Mr Hanson said: "Whilst this will most obviously impact on charities, others who will have an interest include churches, sports groups, arts bodies and indeed the general public of Northern Ireland, who give so generously to all the charitable appeals. I would urge you to consider the proposals and offer your views."

The consultation period will run for 12 weeks.

The government was recently criticised for delays in setting up a commission to regulate charities in the province.

(SP/KMcA)

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