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Charity Collections in England and Wales

Charity Collections in England and Wales        

You need a permit before you can:

  • collect money for charity on the street or in a public place(this includes shopping malls, airports, stations), but you may not need a permit for 'inside a shop'. This is a very grey area and you must check with your local authority for permit advice.
  • carry out a house-to-house collection for money or goods, like jumble. "House-to-house includes pubs, offices and places of business as well as residential houses.  

You don't need a permit for a charity collection for the following:

  • putting a collecting box on a shop or bar counter
  • hold a collection at a garden party, say, or an annual dinner.

If you're in any doubt whether you need a permit, then it's best to check. Remember too that even if you don't need a permit you want people to feel confident about giving money for your charity.  So it makes good sense to follow similar procedures to those required for charity collections when you do need a permit. 

Street Collections

Permits for charity collections - sometimes called licences are issued free of charge. They are usually issued by your local council. In London, however, the Metropolitan Police are responsible for issuing permits. A member of your group has to act as the promoter for a charity collection in a street or public place. The promoter applies for the permit and is responsible for ensuring that the way that the collection is carried out complies with the regulations set by the authority issuing the permit. You can also hold a charity collection in support of a charity whether or not your own group is charitable. But you do need to contact the charity concerned and ask for a letter supporting your charity collection; and to submit this with your application. The arrangements by which you apply for a permit may be different in different places. Local councils, and the Metropolitan Police, may also have their own policies about how often they allow street collections to take place, or whether more than one organisation can hold a collection on the same day; and the detailed regulations may differ slightly as well. You need to contact your own local council, or in London, the Metropolitan Police, for further information.

There will almost certainly be regulations which mean that:

  • the promoter has to give written authority to each and every collector - and in a form which they can produce if asked to do so. No-one else may help collect money. You may also want your collectors to wear name badges.
  • collectors must be at least 16 years old and must be volunteers i.e.: they cannot be paid.

Regulations about collection boxes (including buckets) usually mean that:

  • they must be closed and sealed in such a way that they cannot be opened without breaking the seal
  • they must have labels, or printing on the box itself, which shows prominently the name of the charity or fund which is to benefit from the collection
  • they have to be numbered consecutively, with a record kept of which boxes or buckets have been allocated to which collectors
  • only 2 collectors are usually allowed to stand together - and they must be 25 metres away from the next collectors. They should not walk around or move off the pavement. But these regulations don't apply if your permit is for a collection as part of a carnival or similar procession.
  • there are also regulations about not causing annoyance. It's good practice anyway to brief your collectors on how you expect them to behave.

There will be changes in the law on charity collections in Scotland once the relevant parts of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 come into effect  but this is not expected immediately. Currently, charity collections are governed by Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1972 (section 119) and the Public Charitable Collections (Scotland) Regulations 1984.

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