Bates Wells Briefing for Charities & Social Enterprises | 2 March

Our weekly round up of news and updates from across the sector.

Charities, Social Enterprise

Bates Wells Highlights

For anyone organising members’ meetings, including AGMs, the Chartered Governance Institute (ICSA) has published new guidance on 2021 general meetings and the impact of COVID-19.

We have recently advised the British Medical Association on the formation of a new charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) to simplify the administration of its charitable trusts. See our Case study: reorganising the British Medical Association’s charitable trusts

At a glance

The Charity Commission’s International Charities Engagement Team is running free webinars this month for charities operating internationally in high risk areas.

The government has published guidance on how political parties, candidates, agents and campaigners can undertake COVID-19 secure campaigning activity for the May 21 polls

HMRC has issued a briefing “Supporting organisations to comply with changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35)”. 

The ICO has published top tips for dealing with information access requests. 

Coronavirus – government funding

The government has set up a £2.5 million Digital Lifeline Fund to provide devices, data and digital support to people with learning disabilities who can’t afford to get online.

The government has published data about monies paid to small and medium enterprises under coronavirus grant schemes managed by local authorities.  These schemes include:

  • Local Restrictions Support Grants
  • Additional Restrictions Support Grant
  • Small Business Grants Fund – closed August 2020
  • Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants Fund – closed August 2020
  • Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund – closed August 2020

The data is in spreadsheets which show the total amount of money that each local authority in England received from central government and distributed to SMEs. In relation to these schemes, Charity Tax Group has expressed concerns that charity shops are being denied increased lockdown grants due to the continued application of former EU state aid caps by the UK Government.

It is being reported that the Chancellor is preparing to extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is due to end on 30 April 2021. The extension, expected to be announced in the Budget on 3 March 2021, will allow workers to remain on furlough into the Summer, before the scheme is phased out. This will be part of a package of continuing measures to support businesses, including an extension of the business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors which is due to end on 31 March 2021.

Civil Society Media reports the government has said it has no plans for a second dedicated emergency coronavirus funding package for charities.

Also see under Education below.

Coronavirus – sector engagement in immunisation

Sixteen frontline charities have formed a new partnership to encourage those with long-term health conditions and their carers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Coronavirus – impact and disparities

The Minister for Equalities, Kemi Badenoch MP, has published the second quarterly report on progress to understand and tackle COVID-19 disparities experienced by individuals from an ethnic minority background.

Coronavirus – local elections

The government has published guidance on how political parties, candidates, agents and campaigners can undertake COVID-19 secure campaigning activity for the May 21 polls.

Individuals who need to self-isolate because of coronavirus will still be able to vote in the local elections, following a planned amendment to emergency proxy voting rules.

Coronavirus – challenge to government procurement

In a recent case, the High Court has held that:

• the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care failed to comply with procurement regulations and government policy requiring publication of tender and contract documents when awarding contracts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
• the first claimant in the case was entitled to a declaration of the number and percentage of relevant contracts in respect of which the relevant obligations had been breached

Coronavirus – members’ meetings

The Chartered Governance Institute (ICSA) and the City of London Law Society Company Law Committee have published new guidance “2021 general meetings and the impact of COVID-19” which will be of interest to any organisations arranging general meetings this year.

The guidance, which is supported by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), is aimed at companies, but may also be of assistance to other incorporated bodies and charities. It addresses the uncertainties which face organisations seeking to organise general meetings over the coming months, particularly once the flexibilities around holding general meetings under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 come to an end on 30 March 2021. 

The guidance:

  • Includes an analysis of relevant legal issues, stating that, in the absence of specific legislation, closed general meetings will only be possible after 30 March 2021 if legislation and guidelines at the time preclude gatherings of more than a very limited number. Meetings will need to reflect health and safety rules in place at the time of the meeting.
  • Stresses the need to ensure that member engagement should be as effective as it can be given the circumstances.
  • Contains practical tips on areas such as choice of venue, changing the means of attendance or venue of the meeting once the notice of the meeting has gone out, holding a hybrid meeting and how to address health and safety concerns.
  • Includes good practice recommendations and sample wording for general meeting notices and accompanying correspondence.

Also see below under Scotland.

Keeping Kids Company

Bates Wells’ Philip Kirkpatrick and Lucy Rhodes are speaking about the implications of the recent judgment to the Association of Chairs on 10 March:  Kids company – a legal perspective – Association of Chairs

Charity Commission

Board Members

DCMS has announced the appointment of Ian Karet as the Interim Chair of the Charity Commission from 27th February 2021 to 26th August 2021, whilst the appointment process for a permanent Chair is conducted.

It has also announced the reappointment of Kenneth Dibble as a board member for another year.

The full details of the commission’s non-executive board members can be found here.

The commission has published a follow-up report on Oxfam GB, confirming it has now lifted its statutory supervision of Oxfam GB, after concluding that Oxfam GB has strengthened its approach to keeping people safe.

Free webinars for international charities

The Charity Commission’s International Charities Engagement Team (ICET) is running free webinars for charities operating internationally in high risk areas, including where there may be conflict and/or political instability. For further details and to book upcoming webinars on March 10 and March 17 please see here

Tax and VAT

HMRC has issued a briefing “Supporting organisations to comply with changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35)”.  The changes come into effect from 6 April 2021.

HMRC has published its annual update of UK charity tax relief statistics, including the reliefs claimed by charities and individuals after a donation. Charity Tax Group comments on the statistics here

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has announced that separate to Budget day (3rd March), the government will on 23 March make a series of announcements relating to tax policy.

Bates Wells’ Susan Shi summarises the VAT implications from the recent Colchester Institute Corporation case.

Business rates

The government has announced the final report of its review of business rates will now be published in Autumn 2021. 

Rationalising charitable trusts

Rachael S and Philip have recently advised the British Medical Association on the formation of a new charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) to organisation the administration of its charitable trusts. See their Case study on our website here


The final report from the government-backed Hampton-Alexander Review, which was launched in 2016 to encourage UK-listed companies to appoint more women to their boards and into senior leadership positions, shows that:

• more than a third (34.3%) of FTSE 350 board positions are now held by women, and
• the number of women on boards has increased by 50% over the last 5 years.

The 30% Club has also published its latest monthly statistics on female boardroom representation. These reveal that, as of February 2021 in the FTSE 350, there are no all-male boards left and women occupy a total of 34% of seats. This is the second disappearance of all-male boards in the history of the London Stock Exchange. The first occurred in May 2020, but lasted only a month. In light of this “fleeting experience”, the chair of the 30% Club, Ann Cairns, has warned that there is more to do to ensure that all-male boards remain a thing of the past.

Sector General

The Levelling Up Fund, which was announced at the Spending Review, is being extended to include Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Data protection and FOI

ICO tools for FOI and information access requests.

The ICO has:

• added another topic to its FOI toolkit. The new topic allows you to self-assess your performance when you refuse requests because they exceed the appropriate cost limit. You can complete the topic in stages or in full, and will receive a report showing an overall rating, action plan and helpful web links to relevant guidance.
• published top tips for dealing with information access requests. The quick reference guide came about during ICO engagement work carried out with the London Boroughs, but the tips can be used across all organisations dealing with information access requests.

ICO fines

The Upper Tribunal (Information Rights) (UT) has rejected appeals by Leave.EU and Eldon Insurance Services Ltd (Eldon) against fines totalling £105,000 and notices issued by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) for sending over one million unsolicited e-newsletters and emails to Leave.EU subscribers in breach of regulation 22 of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 (PECR). See the judgment on Westlaw here

Children’s services

The Youth Endowment Fund has announced a fund worth up to £20 million to find out what works to keep children out of the criminal justice system.


New education recovery package for children and young people
The Government has announced further elements of the recovery support package so children and young people can catch up on missed learning and development due to the pandemic. The new £700 million package focuses on an expansion on one-to-one and small group tutoring programmes as well as supporting the development of disadvantaged children in early years settings, and summer provision for those pupils who need it the most.

Review of digital teaching in higher education
Sir Michael Barber, Chair of the Office for Students, has conducted a review of the shift toward digital teaching and learning in English higher education since the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. See here for an executive summary, recommendations and selected case studies from the final report of the review, or to download a full PDF copy.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman finds council at fault for failing to ensure pupil’s alternative education provision
The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LG&SCO) has issued this report in which it found that Cornwall Council was at fault causing injustice for failing to provide a registered pupil at an academy with suitable education for four months under section 19 of the Education Act 1996 (EA 1996) when he stopped attending school due to mental health issues.


The UK has updated its code of practice for the international recruitment of health and social care staff.

Social finance and social impact investing news

Social investment can seem ‘daunting’ and remote, commission hears. Civil Society Media reports on evidence shared with the Social Investment Commission established by Lord Victor Adebowale, the chair of Social Enterprise UK, that the market is too centred on the South East and London.

MPs urge Government to boost recovery by backing community development finance. A number of Conservative MPs are supporting a proposal for the Spring Budget, from membership body Responsible Finance, to replace EU CDFI funding with a £25m programme and require high street banks to provide the same amount in match funding.

Three ways swapping debt for equity can aid the UK’s economic recovery. Social Investment Business’ Policy Lead, Will Thomson, looks at the high debt load of the UK’s SMEs in the wake of the pandemic, and asks what could be the role of the social investment market in helping to alleviate this problem.

EVPA’s new Venturing Societal Solutions report provides data on the landscape of ‘investing for impact’ in 2020, across Europe (press release).

Leeds and London set to become global centres of green finance. Energy Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan announced that Leeds and London will be home to a new ‘UK Centre for Greening Finance and Investment’, following £10m of government investment and involving a research partnership between institutions including the universities of Leeds and Oxford and Imperial College London.

Social enterprise sector news

Ebay creates ‘multi-million pound’ social enterprise shopfront. Pioneers Post reports on the multi-million pound eBay for Change programme, a partnership with Social Enterprise UK and the World Fair Trade Organisation, which aims to support small businesses in the wake of the pandemic, including a number of social enterprise sellers taking part.

International development

See above under Charity Commission for free webinars.

Civil Society Media reports the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has refused to answer a recent freedom of information (FoI) request from BOND, which asked for details about which government aid programmes will be affected by plans to reduce overseas development aid.

Faith based organisations

Government has confirmed that the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme will be renewed this year on the same terms as it operated previously. 

Elections and campaigning

See under Coronavirus and Data protection above.

Public procurement

The Cabinet Office has published Procurement Policy Note 02/21: The WTO GPA and the UK-EU TCA (PPN 02/21).  This requires all contracting authorities, with immediate effect, to familiarise themselves with the UK’s commitments under the WTO Government Procurement Agreement (GPA) and the UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA).

Company law

See under Coronavirus – members meetings above.

Modern slavery

In its September 2020 response to the Transparency in supply chains consultation, government proposed to legally require those organisations which are obliged to publish modern slavery statements to publish their statements on a government website.  Pending such legislative change, the Home Office has launched this new registry service that allows organisations to voluntarily add their statements to the registry.  Any organisation that has created a modern slavery statement will be able to use the service, including both those that are legally required to publish their statement in the UK and those that have chosen to publish their statement voluntarily.


OSCR has updated its guidance on Covid-19 and charity meetings/AGMs, as the date of 30 March for holding virtual member’s meetings where face-to-face meetings is not possible, is not going to be extended further.

In this webinar for Cyber Scotland Week, Martin Tyson (Head of Regulation and Improvement at OSCR) and Jim Preen (Crisis Management Director at Yudu Sentinel) have a conversation about a recent high profile OSCR inquiry case. 

Are you aware of our crisis decision tool? If your organisation is facing financial difficulties and you’re looking for guidance on the options available, we can help.

This information is necessarily of a general nature and doesn’t constitute legal advice. This is not a substitute for formal legal advice, given in the context of full information under an engagement with Bates Wells.

All content on this page is correct as of March 1, 2021.