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When is a Charity not a Charity? That is the question!

November 24, 2016 22:55

I recently wrote to the Charities Commissioner to complain about "War on Want", a "so-called" Charity and their activities in relation to demonstrations outside shops and supermarkets selling Israeli produce as well as fund raising for Political puroses NOT Charitable purposes.

This is their reply:-

Dear Mr Cohen

I write in relation to the concerns you have raised in your emails of 9 April and 5 May about the recent campaign against UK supermarkets that stock Israeli products

Before addressing your specific allegations, I would advise that under charity law, it is acceptable for charities to campaign and undertake political activities providing these activities further or support the charity's purposes and are in the charity's best interests. That said, this is not an unqualified right and charities must follow certain legal and regulatory requirements in doing so. Whilst not everybody will agree with the campaigning and political activities that a charity may undertake, it is for the charity trustees to assess the potential risks against the potential benefits that their activities may bring and make a decision which is in the best interests of the charity.

We have considered War on Want's campaign calling on shoppers to boycott Israeli goods. Given the stated aims of the campaign, this activity can be said to further the charity's human rights object.

I will now turn to the specific allegations you have raised:

The charity’s campaign is in support of Hamas

There is no evidence to support your allegation that the charity’s campaign is in support of Hamas. In you most recent email, you have requested a” full explanation on how raising money from the public to support international proscribed terrorist groups.” No evidence has been provided to support the claim that the charity has provided funds or financial support to any terrorist groups.

It is completely unacceptable for a charity to support or have links to an organisation which is either proscribed or designated. Where there is evidence to support such concerns the Commission will act swiftly and robustly in dealing with this matter. Without evidence to support these claims we are unable to consider this further

Threats to national security, particularly terrorism

You have not provided any evidence in support of this allegation. As such it is not clear what you mean by this and how you feel War on Want’s activities are a threat to national security. I am therefore unable to consider this matter further.

Sham charities set up for an illegal or improper purpose

We acknowledge that War on Want undertakes activities, in furtherance of its charitable purposes, such as its recent campaign against UK supermarkets, which some people may not agree with. However, this does not mean that War on Want is a sham charity. War on War has exclusively charitable purposes for the public benefit and carries out work in furtherance of these charitable purposes. No evidence has been provided to suggest that War on Want is set up for illegal or improper purposes. .

Where a charity’s independence is seriously called into question

Whilst not everyone will agree with War on Want’s recent campaign, the charity the charity’s activities can be said to be in furtherance of the charity’s human rights object. No evidence has been provided to suggest that the charity’s activities are not are in furtherance of their stated purposes for the benefit of the charity’s beneficiaries. On this basis, we will not consider this matter further.

Serious non – compliance in a charity that damages or has the potential to damage its reputation and/or the reputation of charities generally

There is no evidence to suggest that the charity has not complied with the legal and regulatory requirements of charity law by undertaking its recent campaign against supermarkets that stock Israeli products. We acknowledge that some people may consider that this form of direct action is inappropriate and as such this may pose reputational risks for the charity. It is for the trustees to consider from the outset the potential reputational risks of any activity that they undertake and be satisfied that the reputational risks are outweighed by the benefits that may arise from the activity. .

Serious non – compliance in charity which, left unchecked, could damage public trust and confidence in the Charity Commission as an effective regulator.

As I advised above, charities can legitimately undertake campaigning and political activities provided these activities further or support the charity's purposes and are in the charity's best interests. That said, this is not an unqualified right and charities must follow certain legal and regulatory requirements in doing so. There is no evidence to suggest that the charity has not complied with these requirements.

A fob off if ever there was one!

November 24, 2016 22:55

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