Individual charity reviews
Under the 2005 Act, OSCR has a duty to review entries in the Scottish Charity Register from time to time, as well as to remove any charity that no longer meets the charity test.
These requirements form the basis of our individual reviews of
selected charities, which test whether organisations in the
Register continue to meet the requirements for charitable status,
and look at any issues with the governance of the charities or
their compliance with charity law.
We have been carrying out these reviews since 2006. We take a
risk-based approach, which means we target those types of charities
that we consider may be most at risk of failing to meet the
requirements for charitable status. We also review a small number
of charities at random.
In addition, through our day to day work, we have granted
charitable status to over 5,000 new charities using the same
charity test specified in sections 7 and 8 of the Charities and
Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.
In January 2011, we issued a report called
'Protecting charitable status: a report on individual charity
reviews 2006-11' that explains how we developed our risk-based
approach. It covers the history of the programme of reviews
(previously called the Rolling Review), explains which groups of
charities were chosen, and sets out the results of our reviews so
Our report also includes a useful 'Checklist for charity
trustees' to help trustees review their own charity to ensure
it continues to comply with the law and with our recommendations
for good practice.
From 2012, we broadened the basis for individual charity
reviews, to ensure that future reviews cover all
our regulatory concerns, including charitable status and
governance. We review and update our assessment of which types of
charities we should review regularly, taking into account newly
identified areas where issues may arise - for instance in how
charities comply with the new Equalities Act 2010.
Based on our experience, we do not believe that we need to
subject a large number of charities on our Register to active
individual reviews, although we do have powers to review any
charity. All Scottish charities must report to us annually and
provide us with certain financial information, which varies
depending on the size and complexity of the charity.
Our individual charity reviews are one part of our work to
protect charitable status, which also includes ad-hoc and routine
monitoring work and our inquiries and investigations. We
communicate regularly with charity trustees to explain lessons we
have learned from reviews and help them ensure that each charity
continues to fulfil its charitable mission and protect its
We continue to publish
a list of charities under review.
OSCR's review of fee-charging schools - updated 19 June
We have confirmed 39 fee-charging school charities that
will be reviewed as part of our ongoing work.
On 11 January 2013 we announced our decisions on 13 of the 39
schools. We determined that 10 of the 13 met the charity test
and retain their charitable status. Three, however, failed to
meet the charity test due to insufficient mitigation of high fees
or to otherwise widen access to the benefit they provided.
On 3 May we announced our decisions on a further six schools,
five of which met the charity test. One failed to meet the
charity test, for the same reason set out above. On 3 October
2013, we announced a further nine decisions, where eight schools
met the charity test and one failed. On 24 January, we
announced our decisions on a further six schools, all of which met
the charity test.
On 29 April 2014 we confirmed that one school issued with a
direction on 3 May 2013 had complied with our direction and met the
charity test. On 19 June 2014 we confirmed that two schools
issued with directions on 10 January 2013 and 1 October 2013 had
complied with directions and met the charity test.
short reports on all the schools that met the charity test.
section 33 reports on all the schools that failed to meet the
The charity test in Scotland
The charity test set out in Scots law requires that a
• must have charitable purposes
• must not use its assets for non-charitable
• must provide public benefit.
When assessing whether a charity provides public benefit, OSCR
must look at whether the charity's activities involve any private
benefit, or disbenefit to the public; and whether there is any
undue restriction on gaining access to the benefit the charity
The area of concern with fee-charging schools is whether the fees
they charge unduly restrict the access of potential pupils to the
educational benefit the charity provides. Since 2007,
fee-charging schools have been a high priority for OSCR's programme
of individual reviews. We have already assessed 26 of these
charities, along with other high priority groups, some 66 charities
For further details on our approach, see our report Protecting
Charitable Status published in 2011. This contains
reports on our reviews of schools that were undertaken up to that
point, 13 in total.
While the majority of those schools were able to show that they
provided public benefit and met the charity test, four of them
failed on the grounds of public benefit and one on the issue of
Ministerial control. They were directed by us to take action
to ensure that they would pass the test within a specified
timescale. All four charities where public benefit provision
was an issue did so through a combination of measures such as
increasing means-tested bursaries to mitigate the effect of the
fees they charge, and increasing the amount of educational benefit
they provided without charge - for example, the use of school
facilities or partnerships with state schools and local
groups. All five schools therefore continue as
While these reviews showed that it is entirely possible for a
fee-charging school to comply with public benefit requirements,
concerns about undue restriction were borne out in a significant
number of cases. This type of charity therefore continues to
be a high priority for our proactive review activity, along with
other categories such as charities working overseas and those
affected by the requirements of the Equality Act 2010.
Our approach for the current set of reviews reflects our
experience, lessons learned, and feedback from the 13 reviews we
have already carried out, and our routine work in assessing the
status of over 5,000 new charities since 2006. It also
reflects the fact that the public benefit requirements of the
Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 have been in
force for over six years, and that all charities should be
complying with them. Our aim through a fair, consistent and
proportionate process is to ensure that over the next few years the
public can have confidence that the requirements of charitable
status are being met, and that the uncertainty for charities within
this sector around public benefit can be resolved going
We examined the information which we already have about the
schools, by examining the Annual Reports and Accounts which they
submit to us. This reduces the need for new information
gathering and shortens the assessment process. Having
confirmed the schools under review, we will work on a phased basis
with them to fill in any gaps in information, and reach individual
decisions on whether they meet the charity test.
We continue to liaise with stakeholders and umbrella bodies - in
this case the Scottish Council for Independent Schools.
Our aim with these reviews is to underpin the public's confidence
in charities, by showing that we ensure that the requirements of
charitable status are being protected. As with all our
work, we wish to achieve the widest possible compliance with the
requirements of charity law and any formal measures we take, such
as issuing directions to charities which do not meet the charity
test, will have this as their aim.
We regularly update the
full list of charities that have been reviewed to date.