Analysis: Did the Transition Fund achieve its aims?

Richard Caulfield of Voluntary Sector North West questions whether the government fund helped charities find different sources of income

Richard Caulfield, chief executive of the umbrella body Voluntary Sector North West
Richard Caulfield, chief executive of the umbrella body Voluntary Sector North West

When a report about the Office for Civil Society's Transition Fund was leaked a week ago, most attention focused on its assessment that the voluntary sector could have faced funding cuts of up to £5.5bn in 2011/12.

Cuts to the Third Sector: What Can We Learn from Transition Fund Applications? was written by the chief executives body Acevo a year ago, at the government's request. It was not intended to be made public but the leak prompted the OCS to release it and another interim report on the fund by the Big Lottery Fund, which together provided new details about the fund and the charities it helped.

The Transition Fund gave £105m this financial year to more than 1,000 charities affected by public sector cuts, to help them adapt to the tighter funding environment and take advantage of "future opportunities presented by the big society".

To be eligible, charities or social enterprises needed to deliver front-line services in England, receive at least 60 per cent of their income from statutory sources and expect a cut in public funding of at least 30 per cent in 2011/12.

But the new figures show that the 1,725 applicants said they were set to lose more than this - on average, 45 per cent of their total income. In the west midlands, 121 applicants said they would lose 52 per cent of their income on average. Applicants were largely from deprived areas, suggesting cuts are hitting services in these communities the most. Sixty per cent of applications and 66 per cent of the reported funding cuts came from the most deprived quarter of councils. "We know that organisations in poorer areas rely more on public funding," says Ralph Michell, director of policy at Acevo.

Interim figures on money dispersal show that more than 40 citizens advice bureaux and more than a dozen local law centres were among the successful bidders for grants of between £12,500 and £500,000. Nearly a quarter of funding - 23 per cent - went to organisations in London, reflecting the number of applications from organisations there. Health, education and children's organisations benefited most.

The BLF will publish further findings on the fund in due course, says the OCS.

Richard Caulfield, chief executive of the umbrella body Voluntary Sector North West, questions whether the fund really helped charities "transition" to new funding sources. "The fund was a sop to help charities at a very difficult time, but next year will be no less difficult," he says.

He says opportunities for government contracts in areas such as health had not materialised, and there was a risk the fund had just "put off charities' problems until next year".

Karen Butigan, chief executive of the Manchester-based community group St Peter's Partnerships, says the charity's £452,685 grant let her retain six employment and training staff with a view to becoming a Work Programme subcontractor. But because its bid failed, only one member of that team will keep their job when transition funding stops in April.

Libby Hinson, manager of Gateshead Advice Centre,Libby Hinson (right), manager of Gateshead Advice Centre, a Citizens Advice bureau, used the £253,328 it received to recruit volunteers, set up a community interest company and restructure. She says the grant had helped. "But we're still concerned about what we're coping with," she says. "With cuts in legal aid and changes in the health sector, there are an awful lot of unknowns."

Last month, third sector umbrella bodies, including Acevo, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and local infrastructure group Navca, wrote to the Chancellor, George Osborne, asking for a second round of transition funding in this month's Budget.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus