Nearly 100 charities deregistered over 5-year period

Nearly 100 charities deregistered over 5-year period
Henderson Senior Citizens’ Home, which takes up an entire floor above the void deck of Block 117, Bukit Merah View, has 20 one-room units for the elderly.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Ninety-seven charities deregistered between 2010 and 2014 - almost a third of the number that registered in the same period, the Office of the Commissioner of Charities (COC) has told The Straits Times.

Some found it difficult to attract staff, volunteers or donations and ceased operations as a result, while others subsumed their operations under their parent entity or merged with another charity.

Others changed their objectives and were no longer exclusively charitable, so they did not comply with registration requirements.

The latest to close is Sanctuary House, which provides foster care to abused children and babies. It will soon apply to deregister as a charity.

Deregistering means charities no longer enjoy the income tax and property benefits that registered charities do. Data for last year is not available yet, the COC office said.

Some 307 charities registered between 2010 and 2014, and Mr Gerard Ee, chairman of the Charity Council, said the 97 that deregistered was a small number compared to the number of charities in existence here - more than 2,000.

He said: "The new charities registered show that people are still interested to start a charity to serve a cause and civil society is still alive.

"But some charities are unable to attract support and find it unsustainable and give up after a while."

Among those that deregistered were the Awwa Community Home for Senior Citizens, Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre and Henderson Senior Citizens' Home.

Now called Henderson Home, the latter was run by the Chinese Women's Association (CWA) for 32 years but its president, Mrs Betty Chen, 89, was struggling to cope. "It's a big job to run the home and it's exhausting," she said. "I was getting old and none of my board members wanted to take over the leadership."

CWA handed over management of the home for destitute seniors to NTUC Health. The social enterprise took over officially in 2010.

Another group, Awwa, deregistered two of its charities about five years ago. The Awwa Community Home for Senior Citizens and Asian Women's Welfare Association Welfare Fund, its fund-raising arm, were streamlined into the main body, Awwa. Both are still in operation.

Awwa's chief executive Tim Oei said that previously, the home, welfare fund and Awwa submitted separate sets of accounts to the commissioner. But now that they come under one registered charity, it submits one consolidated set of accounts for all its services and programmes.

He said: "This saves us time and effort administratively. Besides, this does not confuse the public that we are three different charities. We are just one charity, running different programmes."

The 11 charities under the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Society, such as the Moral Home for Disabled Adults, MacPherson Moral Family Service Centre and Tanjong Pagar Family Service Centre, deregistered in 2013 and 2014. They are still in operation but were restructured into a single charity called the Thye Hua Kwan Moral Charities. This was done to promote a higher level of governance, among other objectives.

Mr Ee said that by consolidating the services and centres under the parent body, there is one management board to lead the charity, instead of separate boards. This helps to ensure better oversight of operations and more consistent governance practices and standards.

As of end-2014, there were 2,180 registered charities. Close to half are religious groups. The rest include charities providing social services, healthcare and education.

This article was first published on March 26, 2016.
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