What do we mean by poverty?
In the past, poverty has been viewed as a lack of money or material things. However, the reasons for poverty and the effects it has on people are complex. The links between poverty and poor health or unemployment, for example, may mean that charities seeking to relieve or prevent poverty are also addressing other charitable purposes.
What poverty means in different situations will depend on what the organisation aims to do, who they aim to help and where they work. For example, an international charity working in the world’s poorest regions might be addressing a lack of the basic essentials such as clean water, food and shelter. In comparison, a charity working in Scotland might help low income households (by Scottish standards) to improve their living standards.
It is also within the scope of this charitable purpose to try to stop people at risk from falling into poverty from doing so.
Charities addressing issues of poverty do not need to confine their activities to providing relief to individuals. Where it is shown that particular groups suffer from poverty, or are at risk of it because of characteristics they share, then addressing their poverty can be charitable.
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. Activities that seek to relieve poverty are those that address its consequences. They include direct help to individuals, families or communities in need, such as:
- providing shelter, food or other essential supplies following a natural disaster
- providing clean drinking water
- providing facilities such as clinics or schools in poorer communities overseas
- emergency disaster relief funds
- encouraging fair trade activities intended to relieve the poverty of producers by ensuring they receive a fair price for their goods
- grants of money
- provision of free or low cost goods such as food, furniture or clothing
- payment for services such as household repairs, laundry, meals-on-wheels
- payment of fees and expenses; or provision of equipment associated with vocational training, language and numeracy courses.
In order to meet the public benefit requirement of the charity test an organisation must have criteria for selecting and assisting beneficiaries to make sure that help is targeted at those in need.
Activities that prevent poverty are those that seek to address its causes. They include preventing those who are already poor from becoming poorer, as well as helping those at risk to avoid poverty.
Activities that can prevent poverty include:
- research into the factors that contribute to poverty and the best ways to mitigate them
- campaigning on ways to prevent and tackle poverty
- money management and debt advice to those at risk of being in poverty
- advice and assistance in applying for state benefits
- training in work skills, CV writing or preparation for interviews to improve employment prospects.
In practice, some charities registered under this purpose are also likely to be undertaking activities that provide relief to those in need because of financial hardship (see charitable purpose n).