A consultation on how the charity regulator should approach registering organisations that promote complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) opens today (Monday 13 March). The consultation is part of a review of how the Charity Commission decides whether organisations that use or promote CAM are charities.
The regulator says that this area of charitable status has not been examined for some time. The review will ensure that its approach reflects the current state of the law and the available evidence about these therapies. It is aware that this is an issue of substantial debate, and is therefore consulting openly.
The Commission stresses that it does not support or oppose CAM therapies and that the registration of a CAM organisation as a charity is not an endorsement of the organisation or its activities. Instead, registration requires a legal test, in which the Commission considers a number of factors, including whether an organisation’s purposes are beneficial to the public, and whether any potential harm may outweigh the benefits.
The Commission says that it must rely on evidence to be assured that there is public benefit, and the consultation focuses on the nature of evidence it should require of organisations using or promoting CAM that apply to register as charities.
For example, the regulator asks how it should consider conflicting or inconsistent evidence as to whether a certain therapy is effective, and whether its approach should be different where organisations promote such therapies as complementary to, rather than as alternatives to conventional medical treatments.
John Maton, Head of Charitable Status at the Commission, said:
The Commission has the task of deciding which organisations are charities, but we recognise that we are not the authority in the efficacy of non-traditional medical treatments. Our consultation is not about whether complementary and alternative therapies and medicines are ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but about what level of evidence we should require when making assessments about an organisation’s charitable status. This is an area of considerable debate, and it is important that we consult openly.
As part of its review, the Commission will engage with key stakeholders, and hold focused discussions with relevant organisations so that it can explore the views of those with particular experience and expertise in more detail.
The consultation responses will inform the Commission’s future approach to CAM, alongside the regulator’s own review of its current policy, and legal advice.
The consultation document is available to view on GOV.UK. The consultation runs until 12:00am 20 May 2017.
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission is the independent regulator of charities in England and Wales. To find out more about our work, see our annual report.
- Search for charities on our online register.