The government has been accused of “messing about” with the future of small charities, after it emerged that some will not receive government coronavirus grants until the autumn.
The National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), which is managing the £200m Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF) on behalf of the government, has said that it aims to finish distributing all grants by the end of October.
According to reports in The Guardian, however, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has given the auditing firm PwC a role “overseeing” grant decisions by NLCF until the end of November, which means charities may face even longer delays.
More than half a year to distribute emergency funds
If some funding is not signed off until November, more than seven months will have passed since the government first promised financial support, despite repeated assurances that applications will be dealt with “at pace”.
Announcing the £750m package of support in April, chancellor Rishi Sunak said that charities “have not been forgotten”.
£1.4m for PwC
In a separate development, The Guardian reported this morning that NLCF decisions on the fund are being “privately vetted” for the government by the auditing firm PwC.
The firm is being paid £1.4m by DCMS for a six-month contract to provide “oversight for the grant award and administration of the voluntary, community and social enterprise stabilisation fund being administered by the NLCF”, according to the paper.
The NLCF told The Guardian that none of its recommendations for funding had been rejected by PwC “to date”.
DSC: 'It's all clear as mud'
Jay Kennedy, the director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, told Civil Society News that he was concerned about reports that NLCF grant decisions were being “second guessed”.
He said: “What is the process? We know that PwC is involved. We don’t know what the criteria are. We don’t know what kind of organisations are getting sifted out.”
Kennedy said that he thought the NLCF was trying to get decisions made as quickly as possible, but added: “It’s all clear as mud.
“It is not getting distributed quickly, that’s for sure. How long it’s going to take also isn’t really clear.
“We have the bookend of the end of this contract for PwC. They could, theoretically, be done with it before that. Or it could take that long. The whole thing has been lacking in transparency.
“It’s not fair ultimately to the people charities are helping to have this level of delay and bureaucratic messing about. That is why this is important.”
The CCSF will close to applications on 17 August, having initially opened in May as a ‘first-come first-served’ fund without a deadline. The CCSF is only available to charities in England.
It has awarded £55m to thousands of small charities so far, according to a statement last week, and is currently assessing another £130m in applications. It is not clear how much of this money has yet reached those organisations.
The government and NLCF had already faced strong criticism for its handling of the funding scheme, first over delays in setting its criteria and making grants available, and then when government officials walked away from multi-million partnership agreements at the last moment.
Lottery: The majority of grants will be awarded before October
An NLCF spokesperson said: "We expect final grants from the government allocation to the CCSF to be awarded by the end of October 2020, with the majority awarded before that date.
“We expect to receive applications right up to the closure deadline of noon on 17 August.
“Our funding teams are working hard to get money out to where it is needed, and we have an agreed timeframe with DCMS that allows for selection, processing and due diligence.”
DCMS referred Civil Society News to the statement from the NLCF.