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House-to-house collections :
National Exemption Orders (NEOs)

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Note:  Until 2006 National Exemption Orders were known as "Home Office Exemption Orders" (HOEOs).

How to see the official List of National Exemption Orders . . .

The List is maintained by the Cabinet Office (which is part of central government, and based in Whitehall, Central London).

The up-to-date official 'master' copy of the List is available on the GOV.UK website.  It's an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.  The link below first takes you to the Government's introductory page on National Exemption Orders - where there's a link to the PDF version of the List :

The official List of National Exemption Orders' (NEOs)   

The List has around 6 pages.  It gives the name and address of each charity.
The charities are listed in A-Z order.  You could call it a register.

At August 2013 there were 44 charities on the List.

We refer to the List as the 'List of charities with National Exemption Orders'.  On some pages we've shortened this to the 'List of National Exemption Orders', the 'Exemptions List' - or just the 'List' (if it's obvious from the context).

Related pages

Local council collection licences versus National Exemption Orders

House to House Collections Act (the 1939 Act) - title page (Crown copyright HMSO)
Title page of the 1939 Act (Crown copyright HMSO)

On the Law on house-to-house collections page we deal with the regulation of charitable collections, and we explain that collectors need :

  1. a collection licence - issued by the local council, or
  2. a National Exemption Order - issued by central government.

These rules are laid down by the House to House Collections Act 1939 (see image).

The current page below gives more detail on National Exemption Orders.

Why have National Exemption Orders?

Map of UK (England and Wales in dark red)
Map of the UK

On other pages, we've described collection licences (obtained from local councils).  So why did the 1939 Act 'complicate matters' by also having 'National Exemption Orders' - a second type of licensing?

The reason for this was to simplify the collections procedure for larger national charities.  These charities only have to go through a one-off process - of applying for a National Exemption Order (from central government).  We understand there's no charge for it.

As far as we know, an Exemption Order lasts indefinitely - it doesn't have to be renewed (unlike collection licences from local councils).  You can think of it as being like a national collection licence.

xStatistics:To get an Exemption Order, a charity has to satisfy various stringent criteria.  For example it must have been collecting in at least 70 council areas (ie about 25% of England and Wales).

Once a charity has an Exemption Order, it no longer needs to apply for collection licences from local councils.  The benefits of this :

However, the charity is required to notify the licensing department of each council before it carries out a collection in their area - so the council knows what's going on.

Extract from the website of the Cabinet Office :

"The Minister for the Cabinet Office is responsible for the national exemption order scheme for house-to-house collections under the current law.  National exemption orders are generally available to organisations which have obtained house to house collection licences in at least 70-100 local authority licensing areas for the two preceding years. There are currently 43 national exemption order holders."

Reforms in the Charities Act 2006

This 2006 Act includes new rules for regulating charitable collections. 
However the introduction of these rules has been postponed indefinitely.   This new regime would be rather like the existing National Exemption Orders system - but it would apply to all charities - large and small.  See the page on charity law reforms.

Who issues National Exemption Orders?

Before May 2006, the Home Office was responsible for charity policy.  So they issued the National Exemption Orders.  They were often referred to as 'Home Office Exemption Orders' - or 'HOEOs'.  The Home Office is a department of central government (in Whitehall, London SW1) - with its own minister.

Since May 2006, the Cabinet Office has been responsible for charity policy (including the issuing of National Exemption Orders).  The Cabinet Office is a department of central government (Whitehall). 
See the Regulators page for more information on them.

Note that National Exemption Orders have always been the responsibility of a Ministerial Department - rather than the Charity Commission.

Who's got an Exemption Order?

Most of the charities with Exemption Orders are national, large, well-established and well-known - such as NSPCC, Oxfam, Red Cross, RSPCA and the Salvation Army.  Around half of them are based in London.

What types of charity are on the List?

xStatistics:Recently, we categorised the charities on the List of National Exemption Orders, to produce the following figures :

Category (A-Z) No of charities
Animals and/or environment 3
Armed services 2
Children and young people 7
Elderly 1
General 1
Health / Medical / Disabled - general 13
Health / Medical / Disabled - cancer 4
Housing 1
Human rights 1
Overseas aid 7
Religious organisations 8
Sea 3

Note - There are 51 entries above because eight or so of the 43 charities were in more than one category.  Most of these were religious organisations or were concerned with children.

The List was dominated by health / medical / disabled charities (17 in all).

Only one dealt with mental health.

There were no charities in the List which deal with deafness, heritage or education.

Around one third of the charities listed run charity shops.

Does the List change much?

No.  On average, a charity is added or (deleted) every year or so.  

The Cabinet Office told us (October 2009) that the List is updated within 2 weeks or so of any change.

So why is the List important?
. . . how the 'List of National Exemption Orders' can help stop misleading clothing collections

Knowing which charities are on the List is crucial when you suspect that a 'charitable' clothing collection is misleading or bogus - because you need to find out if it's 'authorised'.

'Authorised' here means that the collection has either :

  1. a collection licence - from the local council licensing department, or
  2. a National Exemption Order - from the Cabinet Office.

So - to check if a collection is authorised (in other words if it's legitimate) - you have to ask two questions :

  1. Has the local council licensing department issued a licence for the collection?
  2. Does the collector have a National Exemption Order?

If the answer to both these questions is 'no' - you know the collection is not authorised (and so it's illegal).

If it's not authorised (=illegal) :

When an illegal collection is stopped, genuine charities benefit - because they'll get an increase in donations.