Will Brexit affect charities?

The short answer is that we don’t know – yet! It’s only a few days since the Referendum, but already it looks as though grant funding will be hugely diminished as EU money is lost and government funds are reined in even further to fill gaps in statutory services. The chances are the Lottery will also be raided again, so even those grants will be harder to access.

The laws relating to charities and protections may also change over time. The Human Rights Act is not entirely related to the EU, but the European version of it was, so future British governments may change the emphasis. Regulations and requirements on reporting may also change as the government tightens up its record-keeping. Already if your charity does not report annually to the Charity Commission they will take action to force you to do so; although smaller charitable groups don’t have to report yet, that could change so it’s worth putting some time in now to getting all your paperwork in order and checking up on rules and regulations. You can find out what’s required through the Charity Commission website at gov.uk.

You should also get a grip on where to find information and help. Cutbacks in government funding are already making deep inroads into the amount of free help and support you can get from organisations such as VANL; in the future these sources of advice may disappear, so you need to know where else to find the information. Remember that if you are not a limited company or a CIO you may well be liable if your charity gets into debt, and that can happen through no fault of yours.

There was a proposal in the news today that the NHS should be totally denationalised (or privatised, whichever wording you prefer). If that comes to fruition, there will be huge demands for the kind of health support that charities may be able to provide. Help for those unable to find work or to manage on their own will also be needed.

Having put the downside, the upside is that no regulatory authority will be able to, or would want to stop the work of all the small charities in the UK, and there will be more and more need for charitable services. What is needed now is new ways to fund charitable activities, so get your thinking caps on and do what the third sector is best at – find a way round the problems with no cost to yourselves!

Carol Thornton, 28 June 2016