Progressive, Proportionate and Preventative

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(i) the provision of recreational facilities, or the organisation of recreational activities

Published: 20/08/2015
Updated: 20/08/2015

Summary

The provision of recreational facilities, or the organisation of recreational activities, with the object of improving the conditions of life for the persons for whom the facilities or activities are primarily intended.

This purpose covers a wide variety of activities, recognising that providing facilities (such as buildings) or organising activities that give people the opportunity to make constructive use of their leisure time, can be charitable.

The benefits can be available to the general public or targeted at people who might be disadvantaged in their ability to take part in recreational activities.

What do we mean by recreational facilities or activities?

To be charitable, an organisation must provide the recreational facilities or activities with the primary intention that they will improve the conditions of life of the people using them or taking part in them.

The 2005 Act says that to be charitable the recreational facilities or activities must be either:

  • available to members of the public at large, or to male or female members of the public at large, or
  • primarily intended for persons who need them because of their age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage.

What does ‘improve the conditions of life’ mean?

When we look at whether people’s lives can be improved under this purpose, it is important for us to look at the context in which facilities or activities are provided.
 
For example, if there is evidence that an organisation is addressing the following kinds of issues when looking to provide recreational facilities or activities, then it is likely to be advancing this purpose:

  • the community being catered for is geographically isolated
  • there is a lack of public transport in the area, making it harder for people to get to other facilities or activities
  • the community lacks the kind of facilities or activities that are available in similar areas
  • there is a lack of alternative facilities that are accessible and affordable for the intended users.

What does ‘the public at large’ mean?

This means that the facilities or activities are generally open to all. The 2005 Act allows facilities or activities as an alternative to be made available only to male members of the public or to female members of the public.This includes facilities and activities that are available to both sexes, but at different times or in different locations.

This doesn’t mean that recreational charities can’t have a membership structure. If they do, we need to decide if the organisation provides public benefit. We look at:

  • whether benefits are restricted to members only
  • any comparisons between benefits available to members and non-members
  • if the membership structure is adopted simply for administrative purposes and not as a way of limiting the number of members
  • the level of any membership fees
  • if any charges are unduly restrictive
  • if membership is open to anyone.

No one should be excluded on the grounds of age, race, or religious or political beliefs.

What does ‘primarily intended for people who are disadvantaged’ mean?

This means that recreational facilities and activities are targeted at people who might be disadvantaged compared with the rest of the community when accessing recreational services. This part of the purpose looks at meeting a social need due to age, ill health, disability, financial hardship or other disadvantage. Examples of facilities that target these groups include:

  • youth centres
  • adventure playgrounds for disabled children
  • centres for older people
  • welfare institutes for people of certain (former) employment such as armed forces personnel or miners.

What activities might provide public benefit when advancing this purpose?

In general, public benefit is the way that a charity makes a positive difference to the public. We view facilities as being available to the public at large even where clubs and groups rather than individuals use them, if the facilities are generally available to all clubs or groups.

Facilities available to the public include those used for a range of social and entertainment activities within:

  • community centres
  • village halls

and those designed for particular types of recreation:

  • outdoor adventure centres
  • fitness centres - where not all of the activities taking place are considered sports
  • games or music halls
  • reading rooms and libraries.

Examples of recreational facilities and activities that are capable of improving conditions of life include:

  • encouraging people to take up pastimes or pursuits that will be beneficial to their health and wellbeing
  • reducing social exclusion
  • opportunities for learning and practising skills

Case 1: an organisation showed how its facilities were open to the public at large

Summary:
We received an application from a model railway club which had been operating for over 20 years with a small membership.

Their main activities included planning, designing and constructing model railway. The applicant told us that the club provides social interaction for members as well as an opportunity to exchange information and knowledge with others.

Considerations:
We agreed that the club provided recreational facilities and activities for its members with the primary aim of improving their conditions of life through social interaction and leisure time activity. 

We needed to make sure that the club’s facilities and activities were open to the public. As the club was in operation before applying to become a charity we were able to decide that it was sufficiently open for new members to join.

Outcome:
We decided that the club’s membership was open to the public and their activities, such as its annual exhibition and contribution to other clubs’ exhibitions, widened the benefit it provided to the public at large. The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 2: an organisation demonstrated how they would improve the conditions of life for a disadvantaged group

Summary:
We received an application from an organisation which planned to provide theatre based activities for Wounded, Injured and Sick (WIS) forces personnel, with the object of improving their conditions of life.

Considerations:
The applicant told us that its aim was to overcome the disadvantages faced by WIS forces personnel in managing their injuries or mental health problems in order to reconnect with civilian life. Through devising, rehearsing and staging theatre productions, the applicant suggested that the beneficiaries would be able to share their experiences and feelings with the audience.

The applicant explained that, by applying forces’ skills in group work and communications in a different context, the beneficiaries would gain confidence and understand how they might use their skills in civilian life.

Outcome:
We were satisfied that the applicant intended to tailor its recreational activities to those who were in need of them due to the disadvantages faced by wounded or ill forces personnel returning to civilian life.  We acknowledged that the planned activities were likely to improve the conditions of life for the beneficiaries. The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 3: an organisation’s activities did not support recreation, but did support the advancement of the arts

Summary:
We received an application from an arts organisation whose purposes were the advancement of the arts and the organisation of recreational activities for its members.

Considerations:
The applicant intended to advance the arts by staging public performances of light opera, musicals and dance. The applicant stated that it also provided recreational activities to its members by giving them the opportunity to take part in the theatrical performances.

To be charitable, the recreational activities organised by an applicant must be:

  • available to members of the public at large, or,
  • available to male or female members of the public at large, or
  • primarily intended for persons who are in need of them by reason of some type of disadvantage

In this case, individuals could only become full members of the organisation (and take part in the artistic activities) following a successful audition. These activities were not sufficiently open to the public, or targeted at those suffering from a particular disadvantage. 

Outcome:
We explained to the applicant that we did not believe the recreational activities satisfied this purpose due to the limitations on joining its membership. The applicant agreed and the application to become a charity was successful on the basis that the organisation’s purpose was the advancement of the arts.

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