Shared Prosperity Fund delays could force closure of community projects, charities warn

17 Feb 2022 News

Community projects are at risk of closing before any money from the Shared Prosperity Fund (SPF) becomes available to them, charity infrastructure bodies have warned. 

A coalition of 32 organisations, including NCVO, Learning & Work Institute and Vincent de Paul Society, has written to Michael Gove, secretary for levelling up, calling for clarity and urgency about the SPF. 

The SPF is a key part of the the levelling agenda and is worth £2.6bn. The government released pre-launch guidance for the fund this month, however, full details are not expected until spring. 

Sam Mercadante, policy and insights manager at NCVO, said: “It’s not clear how funding will be allocated, or how local plans will be assessed.” 

The coalition has also written to MP’s from several political parties, including former shadow civil society minister Rachael Maskell.

'Organisations will be unable to sustain the capacity'

It will be 2024-25 before the SPF begins investing in people and skills, but charities fear this may be too late and lead to project closures. 

The SPF was first announced as the replacement for European Union funding in 2017. However, that European funding is now coming to an end, while charities wait for detail about the SPF. 

The letter said: “European-funded provision is rapidly coming to an end – in some areas, within the next two months. With no funding ready to replace it, people experiencing the greatest disadvantage will lose essential support and access to opportunities. Organisations will be unable to sustain the capacity, expertise and infrastructure that currently support places and communities.” 

Although the group welcomed the government's decision to allocate funding based on a formula and not a competition, as well as the “focus on local decision-making and partnerships” it is “deeply concerned” about delays. 

The letter added: “The SPF does not intend to focus on employment and skills in England until 2024-25. By then, programmes and organisations working in this area may well no longer exist.” 
The group has also asked the government to share learning from other levelling up funds to inform the design and delivery of the SPF. 

‘Change must be informed by those at grassroots level’

The coalition is also asking the government to engage specialist organisations and communities as critical partners in levelling up, because the agenda will be difficult to deliver without expertise.

St Vincent de Paul Society's chief executive, Elizabeth Palmer, said: “We welcome the ambitious aims of the levelling up white paper, however, change must be informed by those at grassroots level, those who are supporting people in need and those being supported.

"Without listening to the voices of people who are directly and indirectly affected by regional inequalities the government cannot hope to direct funding where it is most needed.”

The organisations that are happy for their names to be shared as part of the coalition are: NCVO, ERSA, Learning & Work Institute, Communities That Work, Cornwall Neighbourhoods for Change, WCVA, Charity Finance Group, Association of Colleges, Equally Ours and St Vincent de Paul Society, Network for Europe, Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Partnership for Young London and Association of Employment and Learning Providers. 

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