Small development charities hit by government funding delays

23 Mar 2021 News

An aid convoy

Small international development charities have warned that some staff may lose their jobs as a result of delays in government funding decisions.

Several charities have been told by government officials that grant decisions through two programmes are being “paused indefinitely”, according to the Small International Development Charities Network (SIDCN).

SIDCN said that the delays were having an “enormous and damaging impact” on charities.

Minister: 'Working through' consequences of funding cut

A government minister confirmed last week that decisions on the Small Charities Challenge Fund, which makes grants of up to £50,000 to aid charities, had been affected by cuts to overall development spending.

Nigel Adams, a minister at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), told parliament: “The impact of the global pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take the tough but necessary decision to temporarily reduce how much we spend on Official Development Assistance.

“We are currently working through the implications of these changes for individual programmes, including for Small Charities Challenge Fund. No decisions have yet been made.”

SIDCN said that Community Partnership grants, worth up to £250,000 for UK charities collaborating with organisations overseas, had also been delayed.

This means that charities will not learn the outcome of their applications until after the new financial year has begun, complicating long-term financial planning.

Hundreds of hours

Claire Collins, a trustee at SIDCN, said: “The pause in these grants is having an enormous and damaging impact on charities and their overseas partners. 

“While the Aid Direct funding only represent a small fraction of the total UK aid budget, they are currently the only source of direct funding for most small international development charities.  

“Applicants have dedicated hundreds of hours to successfully completing the application process, gone through significant due diligence and many projects were due to start next month. 

“Without a clear timeline, these organisations will have to make immediate decisions about resourcing and staffing. 

Collins added: “We urge the government to honour the provisional agreements made with small charities and to give us a clear time frame in which decisions about funding will be made.”

Left in limbo

One charity, quoted anonymously by SIDCN, said that the repercussions of the delays “has been immense”.

They continued: “Not having any idea of timing is causing a lot of damage. We are in limbo and at risk of losing most of our carefully-trained staff, without whom the proposed new interventions will be impossible. 

“Ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the project will also disappear, as it will be too expensive for us to start from scratch and train up a new team.”

Another said: “As a charity with a very small team, the impact of the time invested so far and the uncertainty surrounding the outcome have been immensely negative for us all. 

“There has been a great imbalance in the relationship with UK Aid which makes great demands on the grantee [and] expects vast volumes of work to be submitted within tight deadlines.”

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