B5.806 Public benefit
The definition of 'charitable purpose' in the Charities Act 2011, s 2 makes it clear that a purpose can only be a charitable purpose if it is for the public benefit1. What constitutes a public benefit is not specified in the Act. Instead, the Charity Commission is charged with determining whether the public benefit requirement is satisfied in relation to any such purpose2.
Public benefit guidance is available on the Charity Commission website at Charitable purposes and public benefit. The guidance was substantially revised in September 2013 following the decision in Independent Schools Council3 (see below).
What the courts have regarded as being for the public benefit has changed over time, as society's needs and circumstances have changed. As the guidance makes clear, the Commission will keep its guidance under review as the law in this area develops.
It was well established in the Court of Chancery and consistently maintained that a purpose, to be charitable, must be of public character4, 'that is to say, a purpose must, in order to be charitable, be directed to the benefit of the community or a section of the community'5.
A trust for private individuals is not for charitable purposes although the benefit taken by the individuals is of the very character stated in the preamble6. If the trust is for a section of the