From 1st January existing charitable companies and charitable industrial and provident societies will also be able to apply to OSCR to convert to SCIO form. Currently around 20% of new applications for charitable status seek to become SCIOs.
The SCIO is a corporate body able to enter into contracts, employ staff, own property, incur debts, and to sue and be sued. It therefore provides a high degree of protection against personal liability for its charity trustees while not subject to the same reporting and regulatory requirements as a company. It also provides reassurance for those entering into contracts, and for creditors.
Unlike charities that are companies limited by guarantee, SCIOs report to OSCR as a single regulator. In addition, a company limited by guarantee must produce fully accrued accounts regardless of its size, whereas a SCIO is subject to the same accounting thresholds as unincorporated charities.
OSCR has produced general guidance, available at http://www.oscr.org.uk, that explains the SCIO and its key requirements. The regulator is also meeting with local support groups as part of its Outreach Programme, to outline the practicalities of the SCIO and the points to consider before applying. The Scottish Government has also published information on the relevant Regulations at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/People/15300/charities