Big Lottery Fund seeks views on new fund for communities in need

Its Building Better Opportunities programme would match £260m of lottery funding with £300m of European Social Fund money to combat poverty in England

Big Lottery Fund
Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund is looking for feedback from the charity sector on a proposed new fund that would match £260m of lottery funding with £300m of European Social Fund money to help communities in need.

The Building Better Opportunities programme, which is aimed at promoting social inclusion and combating poverty in England, would be delivered in local enterprise partnership areas according to local priorities, set by the LEPs.

Proposed projects range from improving employability for the most disadvantaged to helping those with multiple and complex needs, or improving financial literacy. The grants would range from £500,000 to £4m.

A total of 36 LEPs have said they will work with the BLF on the programme, which is due to be launched next summer and will run until 2023 if it is approved by the European Commission later this year.

The remaining three LEPs – Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Solent and Buckinghamshire Thames Valley – have declined to take part, but charities located in those areas still have time to lobby them to change their minds, according to Andrew Morris, the BLF’s deputy director for England.

Charities that want to access funding will need to enter a two-stage competitive grants process. Those that get through the first stage will be offered the chance to apply for development grants of betweeh £10,000 and £50,000 to help them get to the second stage.

"We want to take some of the cost out of applications and avoid having people going under," said Morris at the Directory for Social Change’s Fundraising Fair in London last week. "We want to reduce the financial risk both for the sector and for us – I don’t think we can eliminate that, but we want to try to mitigate and manage it."

Morris said the BLF intended to issue the grants as cash paid in advance of expenditure, which he said was unknown for European funding. He said that 60 per cent of the charities the BLF had spoken to about the development funding were pleased it was being offered. 

According to Morris, charities would need to complete only one application for funding from both the BLF and the ESF.

LEP areas have decided how much of their ESF allocation to devote to the programme, meaning that the amount of lottery funding available will vary widely across different areas.

The BLF is seeking feedback from charities about the programme through a survey. Respondents will be entered into a prize draw to win a free DSC fundraising course.

More information on how the programme is set to be implemented in each LEP can be found here.

- This article was amended on 20 November 2014 to correct a reference about the grants being in paid in advance of expenditure.

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