House to house charitable collections - exemption orders

An exemption order is a document which excuses an organisation pursuing a charitable purpose from seeking separate licences from each local police station to allow a house to house collection to take place in that area. It does not cover street collections for which permits must be sought from the local PSNI stations in the areas where a street collection is to take place.

Powers to make an exemption order

Exemption orders are currently made under section 3 of the House to House Charitable Collections Act (Northern Ireland) 1952. The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 contains provision for a new regulatory regime for public charitable collections, though no date has been set for bringing the new regulatory regime into operation.

Obtaining permission for house to house collections

If an organisation pursuing a charitable purpose wishes to collect money or other property door-to-door (including the use of envelopes or black bags) it must obtain permission by either applying to the PSNI or to the Department. Read sections 3.7.2 to 3.7.4 of the Charity Commission NI Guidance on Fundraising for Charities.

Application to the PSNI for a licence

If a collection is only to cover a limited area or areas of the province, the organisation must submit an application to the PSNI station for each area where a collection is to be carried out.

Application to this Department

If collections are to be regularly carried out province wide then the organisation may apply to the Charities Team for an exemption order. This avoids any inconvenience from submitting multiple applications to the PSNI.

What the department considers before making an exemption order

Before making an exemption order, the department considers whether there is a desire to promote house to house collections throughout the whole of Northern Ireland (or a substantial part of it) and also the ‘track record’ of collections by the organisation over a reasonable period of time before the application.

Exemption orders are generally available to charitable organisations that have obtained house-to-house collection licences in respect of areas across Northern Ireland for the previous two years and are able to provide evidence of licences and collection returns.

Who an exemption order is issued to

An exemption order is issued to a named person acting as chief promoter of collections on behalf of a charity. That named person is personally responsible and cannot delegate their role. If the named person ceases to be the chief promoter of collections, the order becomes invalid.

Holders of exemption orders

Exemption orders are currently held by the chief promoters on behalf of the following charities:

  • Adventist Development and Relief Agency - UK (ADRA-UK)
  • Age NI
  • British Heart Foundation
  • Christian Aid Ireland
  • Concern Worldwide
  • Marie Curie Cancer Care
  • Royal British Legion
  • Trócaire

Notifying the PSNI when a collection is to be held

While no legal obligation is placed on holders of an exemption order to notify the PSNI when and where a collection is to be held, to avoid a number of organisations collecting in the same area at the same time, it is strongly recommended that the PSNI are notified of an intention to collect in an area at least six weeks in advance.

Provision of annual accounts by exemption order holders

Exemption order holders in Northern Ireland must provide annual accounts to the Department. It is a legal requirement for the chief promoter to provide annual accounts. These must be appropriately certified by the chief promoter of collections and also certified by an independent responsible person as auditor. Copies of the charity’s overall accounts are not acceptable.


If you have any queries please contact the Charities Team

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