KIND-HEARTED folk thinking of starting a charity are being encouraged to help existing ones first.

The Charity Commission, which has a base in Taunton, is urging people to look at supporting charities already in place in Somerset to prevent organisations opening and closing again quickly.

Sarah Atkinson from the commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, said: “Around 5,300 charities registered with the Charity Commission last year, reflecting the enormous charitable energy of people in our country. But people do need to think carefully before setting up a new charity.

“There are already around 164,000 charities on our register and we urge people to explore the provision that already exists, to make sure that setting up a whole new organisation is really the best way to help their intended cause.”

In Somerset alone, 56 charities were opened between January and December last year. In 2012 that figure was 66 and in 2011 some 78 were registered.

However, many close after just a short period as people are unaware of the heavy workload required.

Sarah added: “Would-be trustees need to be aware of the duties and responsibilities associated with the role.

“Most people start up charities because of a passion for the cause; they often don’t fully understand that being a charity trustee means they have to think about the charity’s governance and management as well as the charity’s beneficiaries.

“Further to that, the trustees should think carefully about whether they have the skills, experience and commitment to sustain a charity over the medium to long term.”