Analysis: Transition Fund assistance

Opinion on the application process for the £100m Transition Fund ranges from 'appalling' to 'clear and consistent', finds Ben Cook

Anne Mattock
Anne Mattock

With some decisions still to be made on awards from the government's £100m Transition Fund, evidence is emerging that the requirements and timing of the programme have caused serious problems for some applicants.

One organisation that has been successful tells Third Sector it was required to say how much public funding it was going to lose, but had to submit its application by the general deadline of 21 January - even though local councils had not yet made decisions about cuts to the voluntary sector.

Another says the seven-week application window that included Christmas was too tight, and thinks it would have been better to offer the funding in several rounds instead of insisting that it must all be allocated by May.

A third organisation, by contrast, says the process was good, while two of the three aforementioned groups say advice provided by the Big Lottery Fund, which is managing the fund, helped them deal with some issues.

The Transition Fund, intended to help charities suffering cuts in "taxpayer-funded income", was announced in the spending review last October. It opened on 29 November, offering grants ranging from £12,500 to £500,000. More than 1,700 organisations applied, 1,414 of them charities.

Difficult application process

The brain injury charity Headway Devon was one of 18 charities to share £1.7m in the first tranche of awards in mid-February. Anne Mattock, its chief executive, says the application process was "appalling - it was almost as if they didn't want to give people money". One main problem, she says, was that firm evidence was required of lost funding: "It was impossible to prove exactly how much money we were going to lose - we didn't know, because Devon County Council had not had its budget meeting."

Headway Devon received £50,000 from the fund in February, but since then has lost more taxpayer-funded income.

Nick DunneNick Dunne, director of the London youth charity Bede House, which received £198,000, says the problem of a lack of evidence might have affected many charities. Bede House was fortunate, he says, in that it was able to give evidence of cuts by submitting letters and emails from Southwark Council. Dunne says a Big Lottery Fund briefing on the Transition Fund was helpful. "They clarified that youth work was not in the criteria, but work with children and families was, so the language used was significant", he says.

Anthony Woods-Waters, chief executive of the skills training charity Building Futures East, which has received £151,000 from the Transition Fund, says applications had to be done in "a very tight timescale". He thinks rounds of funding would have eased the process and made the Transition Fund more flexible.

Good service

Joe Dobson, a fundraiser at young people's charity SkyWay, which was also awarded £151,000 from the Transition Fund, says the BLF provided a good service and clear and consistent guidance.

"Some voluntary sector organisations appear to have complained that they did not wish to apply when they did not know the situation," he says. "But if the government had waited longer, how far into the next financial year would it have taken for successful bidders to have been paid? The government would then have been asked 'why are you awarding funds so late when it's already too late for this financial year?'"

Asked how many applications have been rejected, a Cabinet Office spokeswoman says the Big Lottery Fund is "still assessing applications - it is too early to say how many of these will be unsuccessful". A total of £10m will be awarded from the Transition Fund this financial year, and £90m will be distributed in the next. According to the Big Lottery Fund, all of the funding will be awarded by the end of May.

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