NCVO demands 'immediate clarity' on small charity coronavirus funding

13 May 2020 News

Karl Wilding, chief executive of NCVO

NCVO/Rebecca Fennell

Emergency government funding for charities has been “bedevilled by delay and a lack of transparency”, according to NCVO.

Karl Wilding, chief executive of NCVO, has called for “immediate clarity” from both the government and the National Lottery Community Fund (NCLF). He warned that ongoing confusion about how and when grants will be distributed risks undermining the sector’s confidence in the charity support package.

Charity think tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has also criticised the delays as “beyond the proverbial joke”, in a sign that charity leaders are losing patience with the failure to honour promises to small charities.

Small charities

In a blog post published this morning, Wilding says that explanations for delays in rolling out the grant scheme for small charities “are starting to wear thin”.

The treasury committed £370m to support small, community charities as part of the chancellor’s announcement on 8 April. The money was to be distributed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, working in England with the National Lottery Community Fund, but no details have yet been released about how charities can apply for grants or when money will be available.

Wilding writes: “We still don’t know when organisations will be able to apply for the £370m to be distributed via the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF). Negotiations are going on behind the scenes between the government and the NLCF, but the reason for delay remains unclear.

“Reassurances that funding will be made available soon are starting to wear thin. I have told the government and the NLCF that this pace isn’t good enough.”

Direct funding

Wilding welcomes the fact that some of the funding promised to larger charities “has started to flow”, with hospices reporting that they had now begun to receive funds from the £200m allocated to support their work.

However, he has “increasing concerns” about the rest of the money promised to larger charities, which was supposed to come in grants directly from government departments.

“I have increasing concerns about the pace and the process of the distribution of the remainder of the funding,” Wilding writes.

“Of the £750m package, it remains unclear how roughly half of the £160m allocated for distribution via central government departments is to be spent.

“Moreover, this is a process bedevilled by delay and a lack of transparency. I know that some charities in some areas have been asked by departments to bid for funding, while their counterparts have heard nothing.

“This does nothing for confidence in how decisions are being made. The process needs to be simple and open.

'Taking too long'

He adds: “Two months into the crisis, a significant proportion of the funds the government has allocated have yet to flow. This is taking too long and I want to see it sorted out as soon as possible now. It’s crucial you’re not left hanging on for answers at such a difficult time”.

Wilding calls on the government to publish data on how it has allocated its departmental spending so far, as well as plans for future allocation and the criteria on which funds are granted.

He says: “There should also be immediate clarity on how the £370m funds to be distributed via the National Lottery Community Fund will be made available.”

Concerns about delays to small charity funding were first raised in the middle of April, when the Directory for Social Change warned: “It sounds like we’re going to be bogged down in weeks of bureaucratic wrangling about detailed criteria.”

NPC: Delays and obfuscation

Dan Corry, the chief executive of NPC, said: “The fact that charities are still unable to apply for the promised grants is getting way beyond the proverbial joke.

“We know that determining criteria is both hard and important if the money is to be invested wisely, but the NCLF and government must be open about the reasons for the delay, instead of keeping discussions behind closed doors. Continued delay and obfuscation can only be interpreted as signalling a lack of urgency which will alarm anyone who depends upon the help charities provide.”

A government spokesperson said: "We are providing at pace an unprecedented package of government support so that charities on the front line can help those in need. This is being distributed through a range of different organisations, of which the National Lottery Community Fund is just one.

"We are finalising plans with the NLCF on how charities can benefit from funds they will distribute with an update announcement coming soon".

The National Lottery Community Fund declined to comment and referred Civil Society News to the government's statement.

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