Benefits of almshouses converting to Charitable Incorporated Organisations

Aaron Spencer

Partner & Head of Private Client

View bio

June 20, 2023

Categories Charity Law

Aaron Spencer and I have recently had the pleasure of representing Furley Page at the Almshouse Association Members Day. The event was well attended and inspired some reflection on the important role the Almshouse plays in our communities both past, present, and future. Over the next two days we each share a blog specifically aimed at those operating within or benefiting from the Almshouse Community.

Convert now to benefit from Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status

Throughout history, almshouses have played a vital role in providing support and shelter for the less fortunate members of society. These charitable institutions have undergone significant transformations over the years, adapting to changing societal needs and legal frameworks. One notable recent development is the conversion of almshouses into Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs).

The evolution of almshouses

Almshouses have a rich history dating back to medieval times when they were established to offer housing and care for the poor and elderly. Traditionally, almshouses were set up as charitable trusts, often overseen by religious institutions. Their main objective was to provide a safe and supportive environment for those in need, ensuring they had a place to live, access to basic amenities, and a sense of community. Today, 36,000 people are living full and independent lives in almshouses.

The rise Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) status

In recent years, the legal landscape surrounding charities has evolved, leading many almshouses to seek alternative structures such as CIOs, as they better align with modern governance requirements. CIOs offer distinct advantages over traditional charitable trusts, particularly in terms of governance, liability protection, and operational flexibility.
The benefits of converting to a CIO status include:

Legal personality

A CIO is a corporate body, meaning its members have the protection of limited liability for its debts or no liability at all in the event it is wound up. This is attractive for existing trustees and future trustees as it means the individuals involved from personal liability in the event of legal issues or financial difficulties.

Greater flexibility

CIOs can own property, employ staff, apply for funding, and enter into contracts in its own name, rather than in the names of the trustees – which will help to attract and appoint new trustees.

Simplified governance

There will be no dual regulation. CIOs will only need to be registered with the Charity Commission, rather than with Companies House. They will therefore come into being once registered, be regulated by the Charity Commission and subject to Charity Law. This simplifies the administration and management of the charity, enabling trustees to focus on delivering their services to those in need.

The future of the almshouse community

The conversion of almshouses from unincorporated charities to CIO status signifies a significant shift in the way these institutions operate. A change to this legal structure will allow almshouses and their trustees to benefit from limited liability, greater flexibility and simplified governance. This modern framework better equips almshouses to face the challenges of the 21st century.

As they continue to adapt CIO almshouses are well-positioned to meet the evolving needs of society and continue their legacy of compassion and community support.

For further information contact Aaron Spencer on 01227 763939.