BLF funds wider range of groups

Anita Pati

The Big Lottery Fund's fresh programme of grants will include smaller pots of money spread over a wider range of themes, according to its chairman, Sir Clive Booth.

In an interview with Third Sector, Sir Clive said he hoped the fund could now deliver what the voluntary sector had long been clamouring for.

Referring to the lull in funding while the BLF wound up the old Community Fund and New Opportunities Fund programmes, he said: "I'm concerned that the third sector feels it's in a vacuum. I understand the frustration of people waiting for funding." Sir Clive attributed the delay to the fact that the board had wanted to plan properly the new round of programmes, most of which open up this year.

He also said the BLF had "no problem" funding more marginalised groups such as sex workers, asylum seekers and refugee groups, and cited the success of a Muslim women's football club it recently funded.

Sir Clive is particularly hopeful that the Voluntary and Community Sector Infrastructure programme in England, which will award up to £155m from February, will improve the sector's planning, governance and resources.

The fund has also earmarked £12m of its £60m international grants budget for its tsunami fund, which will open for applications in March. The money is for long-term reconstruction initiatives in tsunami-affected areas.

The rest of the programme is open for strategic programmes from July.

Children's Play, also launching in March, will use 80 per cent of its £155m pot to develop free, open-access play provision in the areas of greatest need. The £66.5m People's Millions fund, which has been closed for a year, will reopen in March.

The £324m Environmental Programme launched its £234m Changing Spaces sub-programme in November and has ploughed the remaining £90m into Parks for People - launched last week in a joint venture with the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Other forthcoming programmes include the £165m Healthy Lifestyles initiative, launching in March, and Community Learning and Advice Services, both opening in June.

Although the BLF has already pledged that one-third of awards will be for demand-led programmes, Booth said he imagined the true amount would "significantly exceed this third".

The minimum grant available under the Awards for All scheme will drop from £500 to £300 from April. It has already been confirmed that the ceiling will rise from £5,000 to £10,000.

- See Newsmaker, page 11.

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