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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Requesting a scheme

Sometimes charities need to adapt the way they operate to reflect changes in society or the context in which they work. 

Some charities may have the power in their governing document to make changes, while others may be able to use specific provisions set out in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.  For example: 

  • all charitable companies can amend their articles of association (although certain regulated alterations will require our approval). Further information can be found in our guidance Consents for charitable companies
  • some unincorporated charities may change their governing document even (if there is no power to do so in their governing document) by using specific provisions in the Charities Act. Further information can be found in our guidance New powers for unincorporated organisations.

Otherwise, you will need to apply to the Commission to request a scheme. 

A scheme is a legal document, made by the Commission, which changes, replaces or extends the trusts of a charity (that is, its purposes and how it is to be operated). There are two main types of scheme which the Commission can make:

Cy- près schemes

These schemes are used to change the purposes of a charity (including dissolution provisions).

Under section 26 of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, the Commission can make a scheme to change the purposes of a charity where the current purposes:

  • can no longer be carried out, or not in the way laid down in the governing document
  • have been fulfilled or adequately provided for in other ways, such as out of public funds
  • do not provide a use for all of the charity's income or property
  • use outdated definitions of areas, places or classes of people
  • have ceased to be charitable in law
  • have stopped being a useful way of using the funds or property, such as providing for very small payments or gifts of food or fuel to beneficiaries
  • where two or more charities with similar purposes want to merge but do not have the legal power to do so.

Some practical examples may be:

  • when the purposes of a charity have become outdated or are preventing the charity from being effective today. The Commission may make a scheme updating and modernising the purposes.
  • when there is a gift to a charity which no longer exists. The Commission may direct that the fund is used to further education in a different way, for example, in the purchase of prizes or to further research.

Where the Commission applies property for alternative purposes, it must ensure that these take account of the ‘spirit’ of the existing purposes and of current social and economic circumstances.

Download Requesting a scheme guidance PDF (345.8 KB)

Administrative schemes

These schemes are used to change the administration or running of the charity.

There are certain scenarios when the Commission can make an administrative scheme. Some examples may be changing:

  • requirements for membership
  • a limitation on the lifetime of a trust
  • the value of rents which can be charged
  • the rules around payments to charity trustees

An administrative scheme will only be made where it is has been demonstrated that it will be expedient in the interests of the charity.

Download Making administrative changes to a charity guidance PDF (408.8 KB)

You may also find it useful to read the requesting a scheme FAQs

Please use our online Request a scheme: application form  to apply to the Commission to make a scheme to change, replace or extend the trusts or purposes of a charity. If you need further information, please contact us.

Request a scheme: application form