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(n) the relief of those in need

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


This purpose involves helping people who are in need because they are disadvantaged compared to others. Charities may benefit peopleaffected in this way by providing care, support, practical assistance or accommodation to eliminate or reduce the disadvantage.

The activities undertaken in fulfilment of this purpose are only open to those who are disadvantaged and in need; they are not open to the general public.
 This means that organisations should have criteria setting out what they mean by ‘in need’ and how they will identify people who are in need. The assistance given under this purpose must be linked to relieving the needs associated with the disadvantage in question. For example, those in need because of financial hardship must be helped in a way that relieves that financial hardship.

What do we mean by ‘those in need’?

The people this purpose focuses on must be in need because they are disadvantaged due to:

  • age
  • ill-health
  • disability
  • financial hardship or
  • other disadvantage.

The disadvantage may be permanent, for example people with chronic or terminal ill health, a physical disability, or learning difficulty. Alternatively, it could be temporary, related to a person’s stage of life or present circumstances. For example, following bereavement, becoming unemployed or recovering from an illness.

Beneficiaries may also experience more than one disadvantage. For example, a person in poor health may find it difficult to work and therefore have a reduced income.

Age in this purpose refers to a person’s stage of life, rather than just to old age. This purpose is relevant to organisations which:

  • care for and bring up children or provide support to parents
  • provide youth clubs or activities for young people
  • assist with life transitions such as leaving care or retirement
  • run care and nursing homes.

The relief provided by charities under this purpose may aim to:

  • counter or alleviate the effects of the disadvantage
  • assist individuals to overcome the disadvantage or recover from it
  • generally improve the conditions of life of disadvantaged people.

In all cases, the intention behind the activities must be to provide relief to those who are in need because of an identified disadvantage.

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 might include:

  • providing home care and practical assistance with daily tasks to enable people to remain living independently for as long as possible
  • providing relief from loneliness and isolation through befriending schemes and drop-in centres
  • providing transport, equipment or medical supplies that aid mobility, alleviate discomfort or improve a person’s quality of life
  • providing financial assistance
  • providing specialist advice, guidance and advocacy services
  • providing accommodation, including:
    • social housing by Regulated Social Landlords
    • almshouses
    • hostels
    • care homes
    • hospices
  • rehabilitating ex-offenders
  • supporting migrants, refugees and asylum seekers
  • supporting homeless people
  • supporting victims of crime or survivors of abuse
  • providing respite for carers.

Where an organisation’s purpose is relieving the needs of people with a particular disadvantage, its activities must clearly be directed towards those people to be able to show public benefit. We expect such organisations to be able tell us how they identify those in need of their help.  

For example, older people may be more likely to need company or practical help at home. It does not necessarily follow that all older people will have this need, and we would expect a charity providing this kind of help to show how it identifies the people it would assist.

Where an organisation limits the help it gives to people with a particular protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, the conditions the organisation puts on access to help must comply with the requirements of that Act. If they do not, we may need to decide if the organisation unduly restricts access to the benefit it provides.

Case 1:  a Shelter for asylum seekers relieved financial hardship

An organisation applied to us for charitable status:  it intended to provide a night shelter for asylum seekers who would otherwise have to sleep rough.

The organisation explained to us that it would only provide services to relieve the specific basic needs of migrants and asylum seekers who, due to their particular immigration status, had no access to benefits or other homeless services.  There was a particular need for these services in the area where the organisation intended to operate.

We were satisfied that the charity would provide public benefit in relieving the needs of this particular group of people (among other purposes). The application to become a charity was successful.

Case 2:
an organisation failed to show how its planned activities would help a specific group

We received an application from an organisation that wanted to operate a restaurant staffed by volunteers as a way of helping with the volunteers’ feelings of isolation and loneliness.

The organisation suggested that working in the restaurant would combat the effects of loneliness and that this was therefore relieving the needs of a group of people who were in need because they were lonely, divorced, widowed or single, or even married, late-middle-aged people.

The assistance given under this purpose must be clearly linked to relieving the needs associated with this disadvantage. We accept that the beneficiary group may well include some people who would be regarded as disadvantaged as a result of social isolation or, in some cases, ill-health; however, the method of recruiting volunteers did not satisfy us that only those who were genuinely in need could benefit. In addition, we were not satisfied that the needs of the volunteers would be relieved by the type of interaction offered by the applicant.

We refused the application to become a charity.

Case 3:
an organisation addressed a disadvantage faced by a group with a shared protected characteristic

A specialist garden centre restricted its beneficiaries to those with a severe mental illness who were in need of a meaningful daytime activity in order to maintain/promote their recovery.

The organisation limited its beneficiaries to those who share one of the protected characteristics defined in the Equality Act - disability. However, the law does permit charities to discriminate in this way by limiting the group of people it helps, provided the ‘charities exception’ is met.

In this case, the charities exception was met because the organisation’s governing document restricted benefits to people with a shared protected characteristic. We were satisfied that the organisation’s aim was to tackle a particular disadvantage faced by people who share a protected characteristic, in this case, disability. The application to become a charity was successful.