BSN's Social Action Fund grant did not fund Britain's Personal Best campaign

27 Mar 2013 News

The Cabinet Office has said that Big Society Network did not spend its Social Action Fund grant developing the ‘Britain’s Personal Best’ campaign.

Social Action Fund logo

The Cabinet Office has said that Big Society Network did not spend its Social Action Fund grant developing the ‘Britain’s Personal Best’ campaign.

So it remains unclear what project the £199,900 Social Action Fund (SAF) grant was given for, what it has been spent on, and what social outcomes have been or will be achieved.  Neither Big Society Network (BSN), the Fund’s administrator Social Investment Business (SIB), or the Cabinet Office have been able to provide this information.

BSN was awarded the grant last year ahead of over 600 other applicants, despite not meeting the stated criteria, on the back of the track record of its senior management.

Project changed after bid deadline

But its plans for spending the money changed after the bid deadline.  Its original bid to the Fund was a joint bid for more than £1m with private company UK Active, for a project called Fit Bank which aimed to get fitness professionals volunteering in schools.

According to UK Active’s public affairs and policy officer Olivier Smith, they and BSN were told they were down to the last two bids and invited in to pitch their joint project to the Cabinet Office advisory and selection panel.

Smith said they did not win the pitch, and were told that the money had instead gone to the other bidder, Sports Leaders UK, for its Energy Clubs project.

At some point after the bid deadline, BSN ended up in a partnership with Sports Leaders UK.  According to BSN’s website, its Social Action Fund grant was used to fund a project called Get In, tackling obesity in schools.  BSN’s website states that “Get In’s first action will be to support Sports Leaders UK to establish Energy Clubs in 900 primary schools.”

Smith told Civil Society News that UK Active never knew that BSN had won money from the Fund – indeed BSN was omitted from the published list of winners on SIB’s website for all of last year.

BSN: ‘We worked honestly with SIB throughout the process’

Asked how the bid was able to change after the bid deadline, BSN’s CEO Steve Moore said: “This is the first iteration of this fund. SIB said they were looking for big ambitious proposals, so we brought them a big ambitious proposal with partner organisations and at the conclusion of that we were told it was too big and there was probably too much private-sector involvement in it.  So they asked us to put together something smaller and basically we decided to withdraw from working with any of the private-sector partners.

“Sports Leaders put their own proposal in and it was agreed we would support one another.  It was the first call on this fund and SIB were working out the appropriate size of bids, as they didn’t know what the demand might be.  We worked honestly with them throughout the process.  You win some, you lose some – it was a very satisfactory process in terms of engagement.”

Moore said the grant had been used to “develop the campaign and to develop relationships and partnerships with organisations and to consult widely across government and the sports industry to do that”.  But he confirmed that the Cabinet Office has now put the Get In campaign on hold. 

Social Investment Business would not say how BSN's SAF grant had been spent either.  A spokesman told Civil Society News: “Unfortunately I am not able to give you any specific data pertaining to an individual grantee as that would contravene data protection law as well as our framework and contract agreement with the Cabinet Office. Should you still want this information, you will have to approach the Cabinet Office.”  

The Cabinet Office confirmed late yesterday that BSN’s planned Olympic legacy campaign Britain’s Personal Best was not the project funded by the SAF grant.

It said: "The Social Action Fund has given £24m to inspire organisations to create opportunities for people to give their time, money, knowledge and skills for the benefit of wider society. This particular grant has not yet been awarded in full, although a share has been used to explore a new project aimed at encouraging young people to be more active. We are currently assessing how this campaign will progress in the context of broader Olympic legacy projects."

Monitoring the impact of public money

The Social Action Fund application guidance on the Social Investment Business website makes clear that grant recipients must provide information on expenditure and achievement of objectives “so that we can monitor the impact of the SAF funding”.

It states: “The Social Action Fund is public money and we have a duty to demonstrate that it is being used effectively.

"We must monitor the projects we fund to make sure that they are meeting the conditions of funding, delivering the services agreed and achieving the financial and any other targets expected.”

Funded organisations were required to submit monitoring returns in early September 2012 and early March 2013 to demonstrate progress on their funding proposal.

The guidance also makes clear that “if you do not spend the funding provided in line with the grant offer you will be asked to repay it”.

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