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(a) the prevention or relief of poverty

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


This purpose covers directly relieving poverty, preventing it and addressing its causes.  

We take a broad view of ‘poverty’ and recognise that poverty is relative to the economic and social context. The causes and consequences of poverty are complex and can overlap with other charitable purposes.

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).


Case 1: an organisation showed how it would support those in poverty

We received an application from an organisation that aimed to provide food to those suffering poverty as well as signposting them to information, advice and support on matters of social well-being.

We asked how the organisation would make sure that the people receiving food were actually in poverty.

The organisation explained that the people were referred to them from a number of agencies including welfare services, the Citizens’ Advice Bureaux and churches. They also asked people to complete a form setting out their circumstances, for example, awaiting the outcome of a benefit appeal process, sanctioned by DWP, or on low pay.

The applicant clearly demonstrated that it had effective criteria for identifying and assisting those suffering in poverty. The application to become a charity was successful.


Case 2: an organisation showed how it would reduce the impact of child poverty

We received an application from an organisation which hoped to alleviate the impact of poverty on children in a particular local authority area.

We asked how the organisation identified the children and how it would go about alleviating poverty.  The applicant explained that it had already established a referral system with Social Care Services and third sector agencies and would complete assessments with parent(s) regarding income levels and their present circumstances. From this, they could decide the best way to help alleviate the children’s poverty, such as by providing clothes, food or other additional support.

The organisation demonstrated that it had developed systems and partnerships with other agencies, which meant it was able to effectively identify cases of child poverty and to direct its support where it was most needed. The application to become a charity was successful.