The UK's largest charity that makes grants to individuals, Family Fund, has been forced to halt funding in Northern Ireland due to an increase in applications coupled with a reduction in funding.
Family Fund advised Northern Ireland beneficiaries yesterday that it would be unable to process any further applications from the country until it receives its next quarter's funds from the Northern Ireland Assembly, due in January.
A spokeswoman for the charity told civilsociety.co.uk that the charity received a 10 to 11 per cent cut in funding from the Assembly in 2010/11, and that annual funding has remained static at £1.6m since then. However applications have been increasing steadily across the whole of the UK, she said:
"We have had a rise in applications this year in general across the UK, we got 72,000 applications last year and this year we're going to exceed over 80,000. It is definitely increasing. The money for Northern Ireland this quarter has run out already so we're going to be waiting until the next batch of funding in January to process the applications that are coming in."
Funding boost in Wales
The situation is better for grant recipients in Wales. On 15 November Family Fund announced that its subsidiary Family Fund Trading has been awarded a joint contract to deliver the estimated £10m Social Fund in Wales from April 2013, a two-year contract. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 devolves the Social Fund to respective UK nations and the Welsh Assembly has deemed that its Social Fund be entirely grant based. Family Fund will deliver the funding with Northgate Public Services and Wrexham County Borough Council to vulnerable and financially-excluded individuals.
Comet Card update
Family Fund also recently won a small victory after the use of Comet Cards, which the charity has issued as a form of grant for many years, was stopped as Comet fell into administration. Administrators Deloitte prohibited their use as of 5 November, but after discussions with the charity, Deloitte extended the period in which recipients could use Family Fund-branded Comet Cards. Beneficiaries now have until the end of November to spend their cards at Comet, which are issued by the charity to vulnerable families to purchase kitchen appliances. "Comet has reacted very well and been in constant contact with us," said the Family Fund spokeswoman.