A recent report from the Charity Commission for England and Wales regarding St Margaret’s Somerset Hospice makes interesting reading in a situation where the charity trustees had to make a difficult and unpopular decision to close the charity’s in-patient unit.
In July 2019 the charity trustees decided to remodel the charity’s services. This involved closing an in-patient unit and increasing its community services offering. They realised this proposal would be controversial and they made a serious incident report to the Charity Commission for England and Wales.
This decision was not popular and a social media campaign was launched involving staff, volunteers and members of the public to try and stem the closure. Complaints were also made to the Charity Commission for England and Wales including allegations about the charity trustees’ decision making. This prompted a regulatory compliance case being opened to review the charity trustees’ decision.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales cannot overturn or judge whether a decision taken by trustees is right or wrong. In England and Wales there is guidance in relation to decision making and it highlights that the Regulator has a limited role in reviewing whether a decision by charity trustees has been properly made.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales investigated and established that the charity trustees had acted appropriately. Importantly their decision was within the range of decisions that a reasonable body of charity trustees could have made. The trustees were able to demonstrate their desire to act in the best interests of the charity and the community it served and that they had been guided by the charity’s mission and purposes.