Delay in government grant decisions putting overseas projects and jobs at risk, charities warn

A pause in government grant decisions is putting jobs and overseas projects at risk in small international development charities, organisations have warned. 

Several members of the Small International Development Charities Network have been told by the government that the latest round of Small Charities Challenge Fund and Community Partnership grant applications have been paused indefinitely.

The membership body has warned that without confirmation that successful grant applications would be honoured, many charities face having to make immediate decisions on staffing and resources, including redundancies. 

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office declined to answer direct questions about whether these specific grants would be honoured and distributed. 

The SIDCN said the grants were the only source of direct support for many small development charities and some members had already invested time and resources in preparing for overseas projects to begin. 

One development charity, which asked not to be named, said: “The repercussion of FCDO freezing funding at such late notice has been immense. Not having any idea of timing is causing a lot of damage. 

“We are in limbo and at risk of losing most of our carefully trained staff, without whom the proposed new interventions will be impossible. Ultimately, the cost-effectiveness of the project will also disappear, as it will be too expensive for us to start from scratch and train up a new team.”

SIDCN said the average number of hours that SCCF provisional grant-holders had invested in preparing for projects so far was about 200 per project. 

The body also highlighted that there were thousands of beneficiaries who were due to benefit per project, on whom the delay would have a devastating impact.

The government said that once it had finished its review of the 2021/22 Official Development Assistance portfolio it would provide additional information to partners and civil society organisations on the implications for existing and new programmes. 

An FCDO spokesperson said: “The impact of the global pandemic on the UK economy has forced us to take the tough but necessary decision to temporarily reduce how much we spend on ODA. 

“We are currently working through the implications of these changes for individual programmes, including for the Small Charities Challenge Fund. No decisions have yet been made.”

VSO announced earlier this month that it would have to close up to 14 of its country programmes and cut about 200 jobs because of uncertainty surrounding an £80m government grant.

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