August has been a month of firsts for the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland – with the regulator having received its first applications for registration under its pilot registration phase and issued its first consents to local charities.
Twenty Northern Ireland organisations are taking part in the Commission’s pilot registration phase, test driving the Commission’s online registration system and processes prior to full registration beginning later this year.
Punam McGookin, Head of Charity Services at the Commission, commented: "We have received our first applications for registration and, by the time our pilot is complete, will have the first officially registered charities in Northern Ireland.
"This test phase is a new chapter both for the Commission and for charity regulation in Northern Ireland as a whole, marking the first steps toward beginning compulsory registration of all Northern Ireland charities.
"Registration will bring a wide range of benefits for everyone, including reaffirming public confidence and trust in charities and increasing transparency and accountability of the charitable sector."
The Commission’s registration pilot opened at the end of July and will last for around three months, giving the 20 participating organisations time to prepare and submit their online applications and supporting documents.
If successful, each of the 20 organisations will be confirmed as charities by the Commission and their details will be listed on the Commission’s new online register of charities – which will be accessible on www.charitycommissionni.org.uk
In addition to beginning its pilot registration, the Commission has also this summer granted its first consents to local charities under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
Punam explained: "Earlier this year we got new powers which allowed us, for the first time, to provide the required prior written consent to a charitable company’s alteration of its governing document.
"New powers were also given to smaller unincorporated charities enabling them, under certain circumstances, to make changes to their governing documents themselves, to spend capital and to transfer property. We can agree or disagree to these changes before they take effect.
"We have now issued our first consents to charities under the new provisions, including consenting to two requests to change articles of association, and are processing a number of other requests."
Under the new provisions, the Commission can now make cy-près schemes regardless of the value of the property involved in the scheme. Previously a scheme involving more that £50,000 would have been made by the High Court and for less than that amount by the Department for Social Development.
The Commission's guidance and application forms on consents and unincorporated organisations will be published on the website soon.
For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978.