Charity, the Law and Politics: The Emergence of Contemporary Social Policy Issues in England & Wales

Part of the Library of Public Policy and Public Administration book series (LPPP, volume 10)

This chapter begins by identifying, tracing and discussing the evolving legal definition of charitable purposes and the Pemsel1 categories. It deals first with the social policy that informed the initial statement of government intentions in the Preamble. 2 This is followed by a consideration of the issues and themes, emerging over the centuries almost exclusively as a consequence of judicial precedents, that have shaped the meaning of ‘charity’ as understood in the common law and determined the related social policy. In so doing, the ground is prepared for a detailed examination in subsequent chapters of the legal functions and their relative importance as these came into play to give effect to the different themes (see, further, Chaps. 3–7).

The chapter then broadly considers the relationship between charity and politics and suggests that the public benefit principle, always central to that relationship, has now assumed a position of strategic legal significance as government reform of charity law furthers its social policy objective of sharing or transferring the responsibility of public service provision to charities and the voluntary sector. It then focuses more particularly upon the relationship between government and charity within a contemporary social policy context in England & Wales. The chapter concludes by briefly assessing the extent to which the provisions of the Charities Act 2006 further the convergence between charitable purposes and the government’s social policy.


Social Entrepreneurship Public Benefit Voluntary Sector Public Service Provision Private Finance Initiative 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

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