In a world without charities

If the Air Cadets are (as it seems) not very good at complying with the law and intent of the concept of charities, how would things change in the scenario where squadrons were no longer registered as charities (excepted or otherwise) at all?

Could we use some other hierarchical management construct to assist units at all levels to control their funds legally in their particular locale? What would be the pros and cons of such a solution?

I think the big issue could potentially be tax.

We maybe taxed for subscriptions as it’s a form of income.

Fundraising could be affected you may no longer be able to get grants or access to bag packs

Would removing our charity status mean the end of bagpacks and grants? I know a lot of the people we normally get grants off only deal with registered charities (and our exempted status)

Another thing would be gift aid it would be removed.

Personally I would prefer to see a half way house status set up by the government for organisations/ clubs.

Simple to do but are not a proper charity or a company. Aimed at small-ish groups in the community (no bigger than wing sized).

The Air Cadets could indeed operate as an organisation and, because of its size, would probably have to register as a company. (As distinct from a smaller operation such as the local football club).

This would have tax implications plus need considerable increases in administrative manpower. Why then would a local body grant money to a business? And in return for what - it becomes a commercial arrangement rather than charitable. Bagpacks would probably still be in the picture (assuming the supermarket concerned supports you over other needy charities) but this now becomes taxable income.

A high number of volunteer staff would have to have employed status and accompanying rights - a red flag to the MOD.

To my knowledge, there has always been an element of charitable partnership in the cadets. Speaking to past members of seniority, this dates back years.

What is at the heart of pretty much ALL the difficulties in this area is that laws have been frequently updated over the last 15 years to reflect changes in society and higher standards of charitable conduct in a way that is increasingly incompatible with the operation methods of the uniformed side of the Air Cadets.

This combines with the fact that, as much as many squadrons may have problem CivComs, there is an increase in civilians who are knowledgeable on such matter - and yes, more knowledgeable than uniformed seniors running the Air Cadets. There is undoubtedly a tranche among these who cling to old ideals that see every debate and view as a potential threat to their control of the organisation and within a military organisation that can work because rank structure and discipline can be used to suppress.

However, Air Cadets is now a civilian organisation, run by civilians in uniform and with an historical and practical link to the RAF. This should be respected by all and I certainly do. Yet it is intrinsic to human nature that once something has been achieved, it becomes a possession. In all walks of life it can be termed ‘empire-building’ and when combined with a rank structure outside of a military condition, one has to work very hard as an individual not to succumb to the same protection of your empire. Sadly, many in the higher echelons of the ATC find this too difficult and, fuelled by their own fears, are unable to risk open and impartial debate for the good of the organisation as a whole.

Many will remember the flow charts of the three pillars of the ATC - Uniform, Religious and Civilian. Well the civilian pillar was/is supposed to feed directly to the Air Cadet Council, but has reduced over the years and any possible restoration seems a forlorn hope. It is sad, but wouldn’t it benefit the organisation as a whole if the knowledge and expertise in non-uniform matters were sourced from the wider civilian supporters with knowledge rather than titled people who sit around tables and take on roles with no real experience r idea and - perhaps worse of all - with a predetermined angle of defending their clique rather than inclusively enhancing the organisation for all. Not everyone out there is stupid or has bad intentions, if sometimes a little eccentric!

Back to the point … removing the charitable status of CivComs is not without problems. You would have to legally wind down the existing CivCom charities and the ATC has no legal status to have involvement. This is the conundrum as only the trustees can decide. I’m not saying that a CivCom trust wouldn’t wind down by ceasing fundraising and dripping out the money on cadet events. But imagine the chaos of having some 1,000 charities in a state of flux, no legal control and no idea what when and how. For ATC-HQ that is going to be too big a headache.

That said, there could be an argument for the ATC to become self-supporting financially, as with the Army Cadets. But this would buck the trend of public spending and fly in the face of the Sea Cadets who became wholly charitable some years ago.

Big_g’s suggestion of a half-way house is an interesting one, but any such move would have to come from within existing laws and the situation of the ATC is already well covered, it not being outside or above the law. The issue is more one of institutional acceptance, implementation and training before the wheels drop off. A change in attitude from senior management away from ‘what do we need to do to LOOK good’ and towards ‘what do we need to do to BE good’.

No. Anyone can bagpack with the permission of the store owner. Anyone can get a grant as well, it is simply up to the grant awarded to decide who is eligible. I have gotten around £20k in grants for my ACF detachment without needing a charity number.

1 Like

Such a half way house or “charity lite” already exists for sports clubs in the shape of the Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC). However, be very careful what you wish for, there are some very significant advantages to charitable status that are not necessarily obvious on a day to day basis. You’ve got it so hold on to it. Anyway I cannot see any possibility of a new scheme, CASC although relatively straightforward has thrown up some anomalies that required the introduction of revised eligibility rules in 2016. This resulted in some clubs losing their CASC status.

The usual problem with charity or CASC is when people refuse to accept the common sense interpretation of the rules and come up with a clever wheeze. It inevitably ends in tears.


What exactly is the status of ACF detachments? Overall in this topic if your dets are not a “Charity” it may be the way forward for the ATC?

We aren’t any kind of charity. We just look for the tick box that says “non-profit community group” or something similar.

1 Like

But surely that is because ACF is MOD funded and not charitable … if you have the initiative as you clearly do … then you can try your luck at local level and see.

RAFAC CivvComs are charitable however and regulated by the Charities Act so perhaps not a like for like comparison?

While the ACF is not a charity the ACFA is a registered Charity. Details of its role can be found at

Which is all very interesting - it is a sort of RAFAC GPF but everyone joins.

But :pensive: ACFCapture

Not much better at this aspect of compliance. Nevertheless you get a feeling of it does what it says on the tin.

But there are things which have not yet been enacted in England & Wales, the last Government review of the Charities sector identified certain short comings, and the report prepared by the Select Committee, recommended full registration within the sector ie thus removing excepted status which us where the majority of ATC Charities sit. The Charity Commission did not like that idea because it would add further drain on their limited resources.

Saw we got the 2011 Act which led to an anomaly - cessation of Excepted status for any new Charity, yet strangely new ATC Charities have that status but without any supporting documentation ie no order issued by the Charity Commission, because under the 2011 Act they no longer have that authority.

In Northern Ireland an Act of 2008 created a separate Charity Regulator, and since 2013 registration has begun, including Scouts, Guides and Boys Brigade etc, because they are all supported by voluntary donation and are not in any funded by HM Treasury. This also includes the ATC, but interestingly only four unit Civcoms have applied for registration. The wording of the Law on the Isle of Man Law, states that any organisation which claims to be a charity but is not registered, is then operating illegally. So if you do not apply for registration when the Law says you must, then surely you are then operating illegally, particularly if you go out to raise money from the public?

Legislation in 2016, has focused attention on fundraising to ensure that monies raised is properly applied and that the Charity is not a front. A Scout unit has seen some individuals suspended because of support for terrorism. In that respect one can understand the position in the Province, but evidently the lack of direction from HQAC speaks volumes for their intent towards ensuring compliance with Charity Law. It is one thing for Trustees to understand and be compliant, but quite another for any related organisation (even if it a non-charity) to understand compliance and respect the position of those who have responsibilities under the Law,

The successful Civcoms makes the most of their charitable status for fundraising - you have a legal identity which is open to public scrutiny. Whereas the ACF model does not have that public safeguard, even so I cast my vote at a Supermarket to support my local ACF Band. I was always led to believe that the ACF was Exchequer funded, but if this is another example of the Government shifting the goal posts, then ultimately the ACF will be forced to adopt either the RAFAC or the SCC model.

You are either a Charity or not, and as Charity law goes back to 1601, I think we should be able to understand what constitutes a charity by now - it is the application of the Law which appears to the area where many fall at the first fence.