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Covid fund for BAME charities was seven-times oversubscribed

14 Feb 2022 News

An emergency fund for Black and ethnic minority (BAME) charities set up at the start of Covid-19 was nearly seven-times oversubscribed, an event heard last week.

Voice 4 Change England (V4CE), a national membership body which advocates for BAME groups, said that it paid out £1.2m from its Covid-19 Partnership Fund in 2020-21, after receiving requests worth £8m.

This was evidence that Black and ethnic minority groups had been “underfunded for years”, the charity said.

Senior members of staff were speaking at V4CE’s annual general meeting on Thursday, where they also said they would be evaluating recent work with the government before deciding whether to pursue such partnerships in the future.

Earlier this year, the Home Office was forced to correct claims about its work with V4CE, after a fund for victims of the Windrush scandal, managed by the charity, was delayed for several months.

Supporting BAME-led charities

Kunle Olude, the director of V4CE, told the event that the charity had developed plans to become a grantmaker in March 2020, in response to evidence that people with BAME backgrounds were being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

V4CE wanted to “funnel money to organisations in order to develop their sustainability”, Olude said, adding that creating the processes and paying out grants inside six months “is no mean feat”.

Reflecting on recent news that the Captain Tom Foundation had made grants to four charities worth just £160,000 in 2020-21, Olude said that in the same period V4CE “was able to deliver something like 140 grants” worth a total of £1.2m.

The charity’s grants team were “at times working from seven in the morning to 11 at night in order to meet the deadlines for getting that money out”, he added, calling the effort “outstanding”. Since the end of the last financial year, total grant-making has risen to 165 organisations and £1.7m, the event heard.

‘The Black and ethnic minority sector has been underfunded for years’

Speaking later in the evening, Ila Chandavarkar, V4CE’s treasurer, said: “The total amount requested for the Covid programme was £8m, of which we were able to give [out] £1.2m. The success rate, in terms of applications, was around 16%.

“It just shows us the need that is there, because the Black and ethnic minority sector has been underfunded for years, and it is not easy to sort things so quickly.”

Evaluating government partnership

Responding to a question about the charity’s recent work helping distribute funds from the Home Office’s Windrush Community Fund (WCF), Neena Samota, the chair of trustees, said that it was crucial partnerships with government involved “a clear understanding about the work, and the value of the work, that organisations like ourselves are bringing”.

V4CE did not say whether it would enter into such partnerships again, but Chandavarkar added that the charity had “learned a lot about working with government departments” and said that “part of that process will be to evaluate that learning and look at ways that we would like things like this to work well”.

She stressed that in working with the Home Office “we do not want to forget V4CE’s core objective, which is to support and advocate for the sector, and we have to see how we manage that properly”. 

The Home Office announced last month that it had finished distributing £500,000 in grants from the WCF, several months after payments had initially been promised. The government was forced to change “incorrect” claims it had made about V4CE's role in the delays

V4CE's financial report for 2020-21, presented at the event, showed that the charity received £32,000 in staff costs from the WCF.

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