What the Charities Act 2016 means for students' unions

Friday 18-03-2016 - 16:17

On Wednesday 16 March the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Act 2016 received Royal Assent. Here’s what the act means for students’ unions.

The Charities (Protection and social Investment Act 2016 will change the law for students’ unions in four areas.

Most of the provisions in the Act do not take effect immediately, but will be implemented over time.

Here is a summary of the changes, as outlined by Bates Wells Braithwaithe (BWB).

Social investment

Charities’ powers to make social investments will be confirmed in statute. Social investment means investing the charity’s money in a way which does not just seek to make a financial return for the charity, but also aims in some way to further the charity’s objects. These new provisions will be particularly helpful for charities wishing to make social investments, or to benefit from social investment by other charities.


The Act imposes more controls over the relationship between charities and commercial organisations that raise funds on their behalf. All charities that have relationships with professional fundraisers and/or commercial participators will need to make sure that their fundraising agreements are compliant. Larger charities will be required to include a new statement about their fundraising practices in their annual reports. The Act also includes new powers for the Government to support and intervene in the regulation of fundraising.

Disqualification of charity trustees

More people will be automatically disqualified from acting as charity trustees. The Charity Commission will have a new power to disqualify people from serving as trustees. Disqualified trustees will not be permitted to serve in a senior management position in a charity nor to be actively involved in the management of a corporate charity trustee. While the new provisions will apply to all charities, in practice a relatively small number are likely to be affected.  

Charity Commission powers

The Charity Commission will have more regulatory powers over charities, including a new power to give official warnings to charities. These are potentially relevant to all charities, but in practice will only apply where the Commission has regulatory concerns about a charity.

More information about the Act can be found online here.


Features, Quality Students Unions, Strategic Support Unit

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