Charitable status is self-evidently a key framework for a great deal of voluntary activity in the United Kingdom (UK) and in an increasing number of overseas jurisdictions. This article offers a critical review of the processes involved in revising the definition of ‘charity’ in the
UK over the last 20 years, with specific attention to the principle of public benefit. It considers particularly the impact of the Deakin (1996) Commission and the subsequent reform of charity law enacted for England and Wales in the Charities Act 2006, plus the parallel changes in Scotland
and Northern Ireland. The aim is not to offer a detailed legal analysis, but more to consider how these changes to the definition of ‘charity’ impact on voluntary activity more widely.
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