Charities minister unable to commit to all emergency funds being distributed soon

Baroness Barran tells NPC's online conference that the National Lottery Community Fund is working as fast as it can to hand out £200m in grants to charities

Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society
Baroness Barran, the Minister for Civil Society

The Minister for Civil Society has been unable to say when the remainder of the government’s £200m in emergency support will have been distributed to the voluntary sector.

The government first announced a £750m emergency package for the voluntary sector in early April, with applications for an initial £200m made available through the National Lottery Community Fund from 22 May. 

In response to a question during a panel discussion as part of the NPC Ignites 2020 conference today, Baroness Barran said she could not commit to the rest of the funding being distributed by the end of the month. 

“I can’t commit to that as we’re in the process of signing off grants which is not in my control,” she said. “The lottery is working as fast as they can to get it out of the door.”

On 8 April, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a support package of £750m for the voluntary sector, with £360m to be allocated by government departments to charities providing key services and £370m to be distributed to small charities by the National Lottery Community Fund and its equivalent bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Although charities were able to start applying for funds from the NLCF from 22 May, by July, just £2m of the first £200m assigned to the NLCF had been distributed.

Some attendees questioned whether the £750m emergency package offered to the sector was fair in comparison with the £1.6bn Culture Recovery Fund announced this week.

Barran said: “I’m nervous about generalising but many cultural organisations have not been able to open their doors at all or deliver services and therefore will disappear if you don’t help them. That’s less true of charities I have spoken to who are delivering some of their services, so I think it’s very different.”

Barran highlighted how better data and transparency will be crucial to help the sector understand where it has the greatest need, how money is best spent, and what really works to make a difference in people’s lives.

There were also questions about why the government was not more forthcoming with its own data, with one delegate saying it should share the information more. 

Barran said it was important for transparency that charities shared data with the government when applying for funding in response to a question about why charities should share more data if the government did not. 

“It’s not ideological, it’s just down to practical and time issues,” said Barran.

The minister also said the government had a role to play in unlocking private sector savings in support of the sector.

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