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Summary Information Return could be scrapped, Commission advises

The Charity Commission has said a more fundamental review of the annual return will be launched to address issues raised in an earlier consultation and Lord Hodgson's review of the Charities Act, including whether the Summary Information Return is necessary.

The Commission received 103 charity responses to its review of information collected from charities in May 2012. Publishing its summary of responses today, the Commission advised that it would be making a small number of changes to the annual return for 2013 to improve transparency and accountability, but that "a more fundamental review of the information we collect through the annual return is needed".

The regulator advised that the new review would "also include further consideration of whether or not we should retain the Summary Information Return" (SIR) after mixed views were received from charities. 

Of those who responded to the question of whether the SIR was helpful in informing the public about the work and performance of larger charities, 52 agreed while 38 did not. 

Some questioned whether the public made use of the document, which must be filled out by charities with an income over £1m as part of their annual return. Others pointed out that some charities still don't have their own website, therefore in many case the SIR provides the only source of charity information to the public.

Charities were similarly divided over whether the SIR should be retained for charities with an income over £1m, should be extended to charities with an income over £500,000, or discontinued. Some 18 were in agreement with retaining SIR, 25 with extending it, and 33 agreed it should be discontinued. Five called for another option, while 14 did not know where they stood on the matter. 

A spokeswoman for the Commission advised that while the regulator continuously reviews the annual return requirements, it is awaiting the government's response to the Charities Act Review before taking a more thorough review forward. When this happens, however the review will take into account results of focus groups with the public into how they use information about charities, as well as charities' responses to the consultation and recommendations from Lord Hodgson's review of the Charities Act.

The SIR provides details of charities key aims, activities and achievements, and information on the charity itself and any subsidiary undertakings reported within group accounts.

This article was taken from www.civilsociety.co.uk – http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/governance/news/content/13686/