New Charity Commission Guidance

The Charity Commission have recently published some important guidance for all Civilian Committee members here

Given that RAFAC and ATC-HQ within it are not charitable (as confirmed by the Charity Commission and the MOD), all squadron charities whether registered or remain as expected (but still having to operate independently) should take note of this when Wing Chairmen or others come knocking. This direction should give them their own headaches for genuine compliance.

It is interesting reading for those who wish to be informed - from among other identifiers, defined by the Charity Commission as:

1/. where a charity has been set up by the non-charity, for example: corporate foundations, or charities set up by social enterprises, campaigning organisations, or government or local authorities

2/. gives regular funding to the non-charity, for example: grant makers who regularly fund a non-charity; charities set up to support the activities of a non-charity

3/. where a charity works regularly with a non-charity to deliver services, campaigns or other projects

4/. where a charity has a non-charity as its sole or significant member

The CC state: “The guidance applies regardless of what type of organisation the non-charity is.”

The 6 key areas of interest for all CivCom trustees cover:

  1. Recognise the risks
  2. Do not further non-charitable purposes
  3. Operate independently
  4. Avoid unauthorised personal benefit and address conflicts of interest
  5. Maintain your charity’s separate identity
  6. Protect your charity

All of which is a pretty clear statement to me that the ATC -HQ initiative to get around the rules by increasingly pretending the CivCom are members of RAFAC is going nowhere.

Further …

"Independence means that your charity must:

1/. exist only to further its charitable purposes for the public benefit. It cannot exist for the purposes of the other organisation
2/. be governed by its trustees acting only in the interests of the charity

Would seem to me that the grey fog that ATC-HQ finds so beneficial to operate under may be clearing!

Interesting how we can “Maintain your charity’s separate identity” whilst sticking to the Corps brand guidelines.

I presume that it means that the charity must not bow to pressure from other organizations - in our case, I guess that would mean Squadrons themselves, as well as Wing, Region, and Corps?

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What does this mean for subs?

Am I right in thinking the squadron charity is “charged” subs by Wing? Would this not count as “funding non-charitable purposes”?

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The level of subs at squadron level is entirely the remit of the Civilian Committee. As an independent charity in its own right, Wing should set its level independently.

The real issue here is that the Wing charity is funded primarily from squadron subs and it is also illegal for one charity to be the main funder of another (if you think it through, any charity could be used as a cover for the second which may have differing purposes).

There is nothing wrong with an affiliation fee, but this should probably be paid direct to ATC-HQ … but not the GPF which is another charity, but ATC-HQ which should run its own non charitable funds for the purpose.

Well … yes really. Basically No uniformed personnel from outside the squadron should be able to apply direct pressure, pressure or influence on a squadron charity that has the single charitable purpose of benefiting local cadets and the squadron.

That means that while the primary charitable objective is to support the cadet experience, Wing Region or CAC should not be able to coerce trustees to act in a particular manner under threat of … (F60 springs to mind - a document not recognised by the Charity Commission, not held by the MOD and not required as a condition of charitable status despite what some Regional Chairmen threaten and yet suspension of cadet activities is the threat).

As well as subs, what about the Admin bonus? Squadrons pay subs from charitable monies to Wing who keep some (to fund their charity) and then pay the rest up the line. If a squadron CivCom send in a Form 60 on time, some of the charity’s original money is returned to them from the Wing charity as an incentive payment.

This guidance is an interesting read, and one has to assume that the Commission is restating the importance of the separation between the management and application of charitable funds and the actual day to day business of the organization, including management of the beneficiaries. What else?

But I am struggling to assimilate this guidance into what we have been handed by the RAFAC in the current ACP11. One can reflect that current Charity legislation was enacted in 2011, the RAFAC revised ACP11 in 2014/5, and now this guidance four years later.

Might we expect some further adjustment by 2023? especially as the Commission appears to be alerting Trustees to compliance issues.

The Commission is saying that Trustees should manage their relationship with a non-charity, and it is very clear within this context, that non-charity means the RAFAC or even the MOD; in effect the non-charity would be anything or anyone who is not actually a legally appointed member of the Charity in question, and who might therefore influence the control and judgement of charity management, such that Trustees are unable to properly conform to the Law.

I am not aware of any consultation between the non –charity and Squadron Trustees, which led to the revision of ACP11. One Wing Chair answered a question as to whether the review was about compliance with a comment such as ‘Something like that. In my books it either is or it is not – no halfway house.

Any of us who have been around for any length of time, and who are versed in compliance, will be aware there was never any issues of compliance raised, and certainly nothing raised by the Commission which was passed down to ATC Sqn Trustees. So if the understanding of Trustee duties was there in 2011 and the situation was not changed by the 2011 Act, one is entitled to ask what is going on.

Strangely the review of ACP11 is coincident with the change of CAC and the creation of the ACMB (which no-one has yet ventured to explain what it actually does).

And that is where the problem seems to lie, and why it is difficult to relate what the Commission is saying. We have a revised ACP11 agreed by the ACMB, which has been using Wing Chairs to get Squadron Trustees to sign adoption. Now excuse me, but I always thought that as a Trustee, one had to make a collective vote; it was not a matter for individual or hierarchical discretion. It is also inappropriate to expect a fair assessment to be made, rior to any formal decision, without any basis or explanation of what has changed. So effectively we have situation where by the ACMB (acting as the non-charity) expects everyone to accept something which lacks clarity. ACP11 and the constitution are themselves supposed to be legally sufficient, but there is an absence of reference to any form of legal consultation.

You then have the matter of Form 60. The Law does not require an Excepted Charity to make an annual return, and yet we appear to have certain individuals (within the non-charity) saying that failure to complete Form 60 could jeopardise charitable status. That is rather strange when both the Commission and the OSCR appear to have made public statements to the effect that they have no agreements in place with RAFAC (ATC) over Form 60 or anything else.

There is also the threat of withholding release of charitable funds which originate with the GPF. So you then have the ACMB determining the use of GPF monies, (bearing in mind the CAC is Chair of the ACMB and Chair of the GPF Trustees) by exercising control over Trustees to ensure they receive their allocation. The release of these monies is initially to the Wing fund, but release to squadrons is authorized by the WExO (a member of the non-charity) and if release is not authorized, the monies remain in the Wing fund and do not then serve the stated purpose of the GPF release.

But the most significant part, to which attention has not been drawn, is the trans morphing of the Resolution of Disputes procedure into a Disciplinary Procedure. Internally Charities are required to manage their own affairs, but this Disciplinary Procedure goes beyond that, it is initiated by someone outside of the Charity, who is not appointed by the Trustees. When it progresses to Regional level you then find Chairs who sit comfortable alongside the Uniforms on the ACMB, which then means that the Appeal Panel is also effectively chaired from within the ACMB. - No impartiality.

So how may I ask, are Trustees supposed to manage their relationship with the RAFAC, when effectively all aspects of control appear to be in the hands of the ACMB. I presume it is expected they become as with Wing Chair, simple puppets.

HM Treasury is concerned to ensure effective management of funds, and as Civcoms are concerned with non public funds i.e. monies not raised and applied by the State, it is a little incongruous that the non-charity should seek to undermine the basic principles of charity law and effectively control non-public funds, despite the Treasury which apply to individuals within the public sector. .

Reading the guidance further you come to Whistleblowing. The Chief Exec of the Commission has gone on record as stating the importance of having whistleblowers. This bold attempt to placate the voluntary sector follows a study, which has revealed widespread bullying and intimidation within that sector. Statutory protection does exist, but is of questionable merit .

However whatever the Commission believes, seems to be at variance with the perception projected by ACP11 —effectively if the removal of Trustee rights is indeed behind the latest version of ACP11, there ceases to be any deterrent to the bullying of Trustees.

The conclusion to all this interesting guidance, is that the review of ACP11 was anything but about compliance, because it has moved completely away from the compliant position we once had – it has identified the legal entity by name i.e. Squadron Association, but as every ATC Charity is an unincorporated association, it is notable that there is no association entity at Wing or Region, even though it should .

This all helps compound the conclusion that the ACMB has set out to achieve some sort of authority, which it cannot derive from Charity Law, and we are then to be grateful to the Charity Commission for alerting ATC Trustees to the duff hand we are being dealt.

Ultimately if it is not sorted , it will impact on the willingness of volunteers, although I think that may have already started.

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Is it just me or do the last 2 posts read like a game of Mornington Crescent…

Definitely radio 4 material…

I dunno, TL;DR.

I just auto assume anything from that contributor is butt hurt whingeing about something.

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It may be lengthy … and I do not know whether you are referring to my contributions causing such pain.

But I assure you (speaking for myself) I am providing the sort of information for supportive CivCom members RAFAC does not. It cannot because it has neither the knowledge or resource and, in a section for CivCom members it is well overdue for some honest referencing rather than made up rubbish in ACP-11. If only to strengthen the support at squadron level.

I appreciate that some posts are lengthy, but that is the style of some contributors - it does not mean that what they are saying is rubbish.

In my case I have been accused on this forum before for not providing evidence. When I provide a link to the .GOV website in this post with the precisely referenced information, Mornington Crescent comes to mind.

If people aren’t interested, then that is fine. But if you live by the publish standards of the ATC and you care about your squadrons, then you should surely just read and ask yourself a question or two?

That said I realise you can lead a horse to water …

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The other thing civ com’s should have is an inventory of all Squadron owned non-public stores that civ coms provide and other thing such as Squadron artifacts etc.

At the danger of adding to Mornington Crescent.
Surely the key issue here is the programme that we offer to cadets and the way, historically , it has been put together. A number of activities are funded directly by the RAF (such as AEF and glider flying) whereas others (D of E?) are funded from non-public money (from grants and charitable donations?). As far as the cadets are concerned they are a single offering and from an administrative position have probably (wrongly?) been treated the same way. This has undoubtedly led to a blurring of the edges and a risk that individuals (at all levels of the RAFAC) are in danger of inadvertently falling foul of the charity regulations.
One way out would be to break out the activities (public/non publicly funded)and administer them separately. But, be careful what you wish for . A number of the non-publicly funded activities are directly supported by full time publically funded staff. Do we really want limited non-public funds used up to support yet another bureaucratic structure to administer the non-publicly funded activity?
Another would be for individual sqns to run the non-publicly funded activities themselves. Would they then be RAFAC activities? This raises all the issues of the availability of suitably qualified staff (recognised by the national governing bodies) but with the likelihood that there would be no support of any kind from the public purse.
A third would be to cease all non-publicly funded activity which, from my limited perspective, would be a disaster.
Perhaps all that is required is an updating of the RAFAC regulations to ensure that everyone is operating within the Charity Commission rules?

Got it one! Quite refreshing to find someone who has given the matter some thought, rather than to dismiss out of hand because it may not accord with any devolved perception.

Sadly there are many on the forum who cannot (dont want more like it) see the wood from the trees. We are operating by RAFAC rules which is not necessarily the same thing as Charity Rules. If you dont operate within Charity Commission rules, you begin to jeopardise non-public funds because there is no transparency to donors, and certainly no proper control over the application of funds.

It is a fact that may Charities have reported a significant decline in donations over the past 12 months.It seems many believe you can survive without Civcom, but without the Charity side of things, you would be acting illegally if you fundraise, because the RAFAC is not a Charity.

One could go on ad nauseum, but the important points are there for all to see.

I happen to know that the Charity Commission are about to visit a closely related Charity, because of compliance issues,and this is one which has a proper constitution. They are to advise, whereas the RAFAC has yet to benefit from such input.


Indeed yes. These are Civcom assets, purchased by the Civcom for use by the beneficiaries in support of the activities provided AND SUPERVISED BY THE UNIFORMS, and they remain assets owned by the Civcom until the Trustees agree to their disposal.

AP1919 is very clear about disposal on the winding up of a Charity - a Trustee action - so I wonder how Trustee involvement pans out in some of the mergers being reported.

You need to consider the 'application of rules in the context of when some uniformed staff believe that, as OC, they own the assets. This is where erosion of Charity control rears its head.

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Which is entirely correct. But your assets are sweet naff all use without a volunteers qualifications to use them - so it’s not necessarily a belief of ‘ownership’, more that they should have some input to direct their usage.

Just because you own them doesn’t mean you have the knowledge or experience to know how or where they are best used.

Bit of a brisk response that one!

The organisation is sponsored by the RAF who provide activities and some funding for cadets. The remaining balance is funded charitably through CivComs who do own the trainset - that much is agreed by the Charity Commission and the MOD without quibble.

So, two parties come together over common beneficiaries. one to provide and organise activities, the other to fund and equip those activities. Both need each other if only for the reason you have highlighted.

The biggest key difference is that the senior heirarchy of RAFAC persist in burying the truth - particularly for the uniform side - of the increasingly changing world of charity. Because there are serious legal consequences that can affect individuals acting as trustees, in ways that simply do not affect uniform staff in anything like the same way, this needs more understanding and respect from the organisation as whole rather than defensive noise.

Personally - and if it were possible - I would jump at the MOD reclaiming all funding for RAFAC as it does with ACF.

But for now, the frustrations of needing to emphasise the widening gap continue. Also the fact that ATC-HQ has its own agenda which at best inserts fingers in ears and at worst perpetuates myths among uniform volunteers while running around behind the scenes with out-of-court settlements to prevent public admittance of this being the animal they (yes they) have created.

Non-inventory public items are purchased for use by the Squadron at the dscretion of the OC or other suitably trained personel, but the ownership remains through a non-public inventory with the Squadron via the civ com not the ACO. They are not publically provided or owned assets but owned by the Squadron.

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Essentially, you seem to be saying that you now have some legal responsibilities. Welcome to the world of actually delivering activities for cadets - if I get that wrong, I could just as easily find myself in jail as you could for being on the wrong side of charity law.

I totally get what you are saying and agree with you that it’s an issue in terms of how it’s being managed - but the tone it’s being presented in is very much a soapbox / woe is me style.

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If so, then mea culpa … it isn’t meant to be. And of course I take your point in terms of cadet care.

Let’s try it this way.

From each of the ‘thirds’ little is being done to understand or address the accelerating changes in the charitable aspect of the trio. Each is responsible for their own area of contribution to achieve what is the complete cadet experience, the current response from RAFAC toward the charitable third is wholly inappropriate in the light of changes in the Charities Act 2006, since when it was agreed through an irreversible ACP-11 release that CivComs were to operate as independent charities. From that point, they could be no no longer part of the RAFAC control structure. Subsequent difficulties have tested that and RAFAC has been found a) wanting in its attitude to the situation and b) wrong in its treatment of trustees and charity in general. In the light of the Charities Act 2011 and subsequent amendments, the legal requirements on charities are quite simply on a divergent path to RAFAC ethos. It would be better to have open discussion to allow a framework which recognises the reinforcement of that independence as complimentary to the RAFAC structure. Rather that than persist with ill-informed and conceived rearguard inventions by senior officials who refuse to accept they have no legal authority at all. Their efforts would be best spent on enhancing and improving the cadet experiences, MOD commitment and resources through RAFAC.

In a more connected World, where accountability is greatly increased and civilians supporting RAFAC have an increased propensity to question practises against the professional obligations and understandings, the charitable third is one that needs a more sophisticated approach to compliance.