Making difficult decisions – an illustrative example article banner image

The Charity Commission has published a case report into the decision and procedures followed by the well-known national charity, Scope. Following a strategic review, the charity decided to close or change the type of service provided from residential care to supported living in eleven of their thirty-five care homes.

The Charity Commission were involved after they received complaints by people concerned that the charity was not properly considering the wishes or needs of its beneficiaries in seeking to make these changes.

Under charity law, it is for charity trustees to direct and plan the long-term strategic direction for a charity and decide how best to further the charity’s objects. Within that, there is a reasonable range of decisions that can be made by a Board of Trustees. It may be the case that similar organisations facing the same issue may decide on different approaches to take but both be within the reasonable range of decisions.

In this case, the Charity Commission sought assurance that the Charity Trustees of Scope were sufficiently aware of their legal duties and could show that their decisions were based on sufficient and appropriate evidence and they took into account all relevant factors at each stage of their decision-making.

The Charity Commission were satisfied that the Scope charity trustees had acted properly, whilst acknowledging that the closure of care homes is likely to be a difficult and controversial process. In particular, the following factors were key in showing to the Charity Commission that a proper decision-making process had been carried out:-

  1. The charity had taken steps to ensure it consulted with its beneficiaries;
  2. The charity gave support to an independent advocacy service to enable people with disabilities to express their views;
  3. The charity had provided increased levels of support for customers and staff during the consultation process at each home;
  4. The charity worked closely with local authorities who had a statutory duty to assess the need of individuals and have in place care plans;
  5. The charity used external partners to evaluate the communication and support provided to customers, staff and relatives. This enabled the charity to learn lessons, adapt and improve the process;
  6. Scope Trustees received regular reports and updates to maintain oversight and control of the senior management team implementing the changes in services;
  7. All key decisions were made and recorded at meetings of the Board of Trustees; and
  8. Professional advice was taken.

Charities often have to make difficult decisions due to financial constraints, changes in the environment they are working (e.g. social attitudes or regulations) or changes wrought by technology.  Charity Trustees always need to consider what is in the best interest of the charity and should not shirk making difficult decisions. Whilst the process may be painful, such decisions taken in a timely manner, following a proper evidence-based decision- making process can ultimately result in better outcomes for the charity and its beneficiaries.


The obtaining of professional advice to ensure an evidence-based approach is important. If you have any questions then please call 01726 74433 or email

Reference: Case report Scope 208231 published by the Charity Commission on 3 September 2015