The last deadline for applications to the Community Fund was in May, and the last awards from that funding round will be announced in November.
The Big Lottery Fund is unable to say exactly when applications will open for its new grants programmes because it needs to wait for the Lottery Bill to be passed. But it intends that the majority of programmes will have been launched by April 2006.
The sector's 'lottery watcher', Luke FitzHerbert of the Directory of Social Change, point outs that this could mean a funding gap of up to a year in some cases, by the time the fund finalises its new programmes, considers applications, announces the winners and then hands out the money.
"That is a long haul in which the flow of money to the voluntary sector will be very seriously diminished," he said.
And Sylvia Lee, project manager at Phoenix House, the drug rehabilitation charity, said: "The eight-month grant-giving holiday granted to itself by the Big Lottery Fund will cause consternation and jeopardise many services provided by small-to-medium sized charities - particularly those that are coming to the end of their grants period and would be looking to the fund for renewed support."
The Big Lottery Fund insisted that the gap between closing old programmes and launching new ones "won't be long at all". A spokeswoman said the fund would be launching programmes "on a rolling basis from the end of this summer".
But she added: "If we're to get the new programmes right, it will inevitably take a little time."
- See News, page 5.