Compact in action: Children's charities

Grant applicants remain unimpressed by the attitude of the DfES towards its funding bids.

The problem

More than 20 children's charities approached the NCVO for help after the Department for Education and Skills gave them just three weeks over Christmas to apply for grants.

The organisations were bidding for money from the Children, Young People and Families Grant, which the DfES launched in 2005 to help charities deliver the Every Child Matters programme.

The first round of funding, awarded in April 2006, provided £17m in grants to 67 applicants. NCH, the Children's Society and 4Children were among the successful bidders.

Charities had to declare their interest in applying for a share of the £3.3m available in the second round of funding by 15 November last year.

All applicants were informed on 12 December whether they had got through to the second phase. But those that had been successful were given only until 3 January - less than a month - to submit their bids.

The action

The NCVO told the DfES the timeframe was totally inadequate, particularly as it covered the Christmas period. "The forms are detailed and require consultation with beneficiaries," says Saskia Daggett, manager of the NCVO's Compact Advocacy Programme.

The NCVO quoted the Compact funding code, which says charities should have enough time to respond to public sector issues that affect them and that notification of funding decisions needs to be timely.

The outcome

Parmjit Dhanda, minister for children, young people and families, announced in December that the deadline for applications would be extended to 19 January. This was not wholly satisfactory, because the DfES has a history of Compact breaches. Dhanda's lukewarm commitment to tackle Compact breaches in future, rather than now, left the NCVO less than impressed. "This isn't good enough," says Daggett. "We are seeking assurances that this situation will not arise again."

Tellingly, not one of the charities involved was willing to be identified. "People are jittery about criticising the Government while it is deciding who gets the grants," says Daggett.

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