Religious designation was included in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 to take account of the unique structures within some faith-based charities in Northern Ireland, which often have supervisory or regulatory arrangements in place to deal with issues that may arise.
The designation is aimed at ensuring that charity regulation is proportionate in accordance with the structures already in place within the charity, while ensuring the Commission retains the necessary regulatory powers.
Religious designation is available for registered charities in Northern Ireland to apply for from 1 January 2016. Religious designation will not be granted automatically, rather, it will be up to individual charities to consider whether they wish to apply for designation and provide evidence that they meet the conditions set out in the legislation.
It is important to note that religious designation is distinct from charity registration and whether a charity receives designation or not will have no impact on its status as a charity.
The Commission has produced guidance, available below, to help charities understand religious designation and how to submit an application.