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A critical study into one of the key requirements of charity law is now under way.

The study, on behalf of the Charity Commission, is being carried out by a team from the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), based in London, and the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research (CVSR) at Sheffield Hallam University.

The research will analyse perceptions, knowledge and experience of the impact on charities of the renewed emphasis on the public benefit requirement in the Charities Act 2006.

It has long been the case that charities must be established 'for the public benefit', but the precise meaning of this term has been subject to debate. The Charities Act 2006, which took effect in 2008, removed the understanding that some charities could be 'presumed' to meet this requirement and since then it has been an explicit requirement for every charity in England and Wales.

Between 2009 and 2011, the Charity Commission undertook public benefit assessments of a range of charities and commissioned two research reports. This third and final research project will investigate what effect the Charities Act changes have had in practice, through interviews with key individuals and workshops with a range of representatives from the charity sector. It will take place between January and April 2012.

The study will be led by Leila Baker and Professor Margaret Harris of IVAR and supported by Professor Gareth Morgan at Sheffield Hallam. It will inform future policy work by the Charity Commission and will also feed into Lord Hodgson’s statutory review of the Charities Act 2006.

Leila Baker, research manager of IVAR said: “IVAR has wide experience of work on public policy issues with stakeholders in the voluntary sector and we are delighted that we, along with Sheffield Hallam University, have been chosen for this study.”

Gareth Morgan, professor of charity studies at Sheffield Hallam, said: “The concept of public benefit has created massive debate and the process of reforming the requirements, which led to the Charities Act 2006, has been one of the central issues affecting charities over the last 20 years.  

"This study will offer a key opportunity to link the legal issues with the practical experience of leading people in the sector, including charity trustees and professional advisers.”

By helping deliver this research, the Centre for Voluntary Sector Research (CVSR) at Sheffield Hallam University continues to play a major role in public benefit research. In 2011 CVSR completed a major study for the Commission on public benefit reporting in the trustees' reports of charities.

For press information: contact Tess Humphrys on 0114 225 4025 or email