The government has outlined next steps for the release of around £2bn held in dormant assets, but has still not announced a consultation on what should be done with the money.
In March last year a government-backed commission identified that substantial amounts of insurance and investment products had not been touched for 15 years or more, and were unclaimed by their owners.
A year ago the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which is responsible for charities, promised to unlock £2bn from dormant assets to “transform the charity sector”. DCMS indicated at the time that it would consult imminently on how the money should be spent.
Rob Wilson, who at the time was minister for civil society, intended for the money to go into a permanent endowment to support community foundations to give grants to small charities. He expected the money to be available for charities to spend in 2021.
However the official response to the Commission on Dormant Assets report, published today, says only that government will work with “industry champions” to develop a plan for the scheme and that it will “undertake a preliminary assessment of the legislative amendments required to enable an expanded dormant assets scheme” at some point this year.
A spokeswoman for DCMS said that a decision on how to spend the money will be made “in due course” and could not promise there would still be a consultation.
The Charity Finance Group today questioned how fast the government was moving to release the money.
“It is positive that the government is pushing ahead with this and that they are committed to expanding dormant assets to cover a broad range of products,” said Andrew O’Brien, head of policy and engagement at the CFG. “However this report indicates that we are several years away from any significant flow of assets into the sector.
“It is important that the government and the Civil Society Strategy does not kick the fan down the road, waiting for these assets to be realised. Investment in the sector is needed now and the government should not use challenges in accessing dormant assets as an excuse for inaction.”