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Government grant standards ‘cause for alarm’ say infrastructure bodies

06 Dec 2016 News

Fergus Burnett

Charity infrastructure bodies have criticised new standards governing charitable grants, published last week by the Cabinet Office.

The government’s decision to introduce the standards follows criticism of plans to introduce an “anti-advocacy clause” which would have prevented charities receiving government grants from lobbying.

Local infrastructure body Navca and the Directory of Social Change both praised improvements in the standards on lobbying, following work done by charity infrastructure bodies such as NCVO, but said there was more to be done to make the new rules workable.

The new standards do not just address advocacy, but also set rules about how government grant-giving will take place more widely.

Some of the moves are seen as positive steps by the sector. Government has been criticised over a lack of transparency in how it awards large grants, after making several significant awards – including over £40m to Kids Company – without proper oversight.

But Navca said the standards had been introduced in haste and “fall short of what charities and grant makers might expect”.

It criticised a move to funding in arrears, rather than up-front, as well as annual reviews which could lead to short-termism. It said the clause on lobbying could still restrict charities’ ability to campaign, and that a new Grants Advisory Panel set up to monitor grants lacks charity expertise.

Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of Navca, said: “The lack of consultation sets a poor example. There would have been a huge benefit in testing out these ideas with charities, particularly smaller ones, to see how they work in practice. We think that the intentions behind the new standards are good but the reality is a bit of a muddle.”

A Directory of Social Change spokesman said: “Credit to NCVO for what they've achieved so far. But it's not enough. There are still huge issues around government grant-making that need to be overcome.

“Some of the standards are a cause for alarm, for example promoting payments in arrears which would be very bad for charities, especially smaller ones.”

 

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