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Big Lottery Fund to back long-term projects on complex social problems

England director Dharmendra Kanani says the BLF will put hundreds of millions of pounds into initiatives lasting up to eight years

Big Lottery Fund England director Dharmendra Kanani
Big Lottery Fund England director Dharmendra Kanani

The Big Lottery Fund will put hundreds of millions of pounds into long-term projects to tackle complex social problems in England’s neediest areas, the organisation said today.

Announcing its priorities in England to 2015, the BLF said it could award between £100m and £150m in each of three or four cause areas to fund schemes lasting up to eight years.

The funder will decide on the geographical areas in England with the greatest need that it wants to target over the next few months for the long-term funding. Partnerships, which could include charities, community groups and councils, can apply for grants to develop their schemes and, if the pilots are successful, they can get longer-term funding.

One of the cause areas would be tackling entrenched problems such as alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence. Another would be projects for older people, and two more cause areas are yet to be announced.

Dharmendra Kanani, BLF’s England director, said: "Rather than tackle them in silos, we want to look at where they come together and have a negative impact."

He said he did not yet know how many projects would be supported, but the BLF was keen to be able to measure the impact of the projects.

Kanani said the BLF was considering the use of social investment in some projects in various funding programmes, where appropriate, and helping projects develop the skills to attract social investors.

A spokesman for the BLF said it had the power to make loans. "But we really want to understand where we can add value and what would be most appropriate. We cannot make a profit on anything, so if we were to make a loan, in that respect we would have to think about how that requirement would work."

Kanani said that Awards for All, its small grants programme, would be increased from £56m in 2011/12 to £57m in 2012/13. The scheme would, he said, continue to fund small community projects but also pay for groups to develop ideas to a stage at which they could apply for grants.

Kanani said the BLF would introduce online applications for Awards for All as part of a drive to speed up grant decisions and tailor the information requested by the funder to the project applying for the money.

Decisions could be received in as little as one or two weeks compared with the four to five weeks it can take now, he said.

The fund’s Reaching Communities programme,which provides grants of £10,000 and £500,000, will be increased from £148m in 2011/12 to £150m in 2012/13.

The BLF also plans to help the voluntary and private sectors work together locally or share skills.

It anticipates that it will have £1.5bn of funding to 2015 or £500m-£600m a year if existing levels of lottery ticket purchasing continue.

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