Charity sector leaders have condemned the delay in handing out government emergency funding to small charities, and expressed concern about the role of accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in the process.
The fact that only a quarter of the £200m funding given to the National Lottery Community Fund to help small organisations survive the coronavirus crisis has so far been awarded was described as “pathetic”, a “travesty” and “unacceptable” on social media following an article in The Guardian.
Many also questioned why the PwC had been awarded a £1.4m contract to oversee the NLCF’s distribution of the funds, which were part of the government’s £750 coronavirus support package, as revealed in the Guardian story.
Despite the fund being billed as “emergency” funding by Chancellor Rishi Sunak when the money was announced on 8 April, the NLCF announced last week that so far only £55m of the £200m had been awarded to charities.
This time last month, Third Sector reported that just 1 per cent of the funding had actually been handed out to charities.
The fund is due to close on 17 August, having so far received more than 10,000 applications.
And, according to the government's own Contracts Finder website, the PwC has been awarded a £1.4m contract "to provide strategic consultancy support services for Office for Civil Society including governance support and oversight for the grant award and administration of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise stablisation fund being administered by the National Lotteries Communities Foundation".
Andrew Purkis, a former member of the Charity Commission board, tweeted his MP, Labour’s Marsha de Cordova asking her to raise the issue.
He tweeted that more than four months “after the government promised emergency money would go to charities ‘at pace’ it's pathetic how little has reached them.”
He also questioned why the PwC was involved in the distribution of the grants when the NLCF already has the relevant expertise.
@MarshadeCordova As my MP please will you do what you can to raise these issues? 4+ months after the Gvnt promised emergency money would go to charities "at pace" it's pathetic how little has reached them. And why involve @PwC when the Lottery already has such expertise? Thanks. https://t.co/mSurCe7ofh— Andrew Purkis (@AndrewPurkis) August 3, 2020
Vicky Browning, chief executive of the charity leaders’ body Acevo tweeted that the funding was desperately needed, adding “it's unacceptable that it's taking so long to get the cash out”.
YMCA North Tyneside tweeted that its own experience of trying to access the funding had been “unbelievable, bureaucratic, senseless”.
We could tell you a few stories about our recent experiences trying to access - unbelievable, bureaucratic, senseless— YMCA North Tyneside (@YMCANTyneside) August 3, 2020
“They’re making the best of a tough situation,” he wrote.
“Their existing process and experienced staff are being second-guessed by people in government and the private sector who know nothing about charities or grant-making.
“Normal government incompetence and ignorance about anything to do with our sector is now verging into dishonesty, coverup and malpractice.”
Debra Allcock-Tyler, chief executive of the DSC told The Guardian: “This is an absolute travesty. Our suspicion is that it is all to do with political decisions about which charities are approved of by the government and which are not.”
The NLCF said it was currently assessing grants totalling £130m and that it would “continue to assess applications that we have received" before noon on 17 August.
The Small Charities Coalition urged charities to submit applications for the fund.
We know a lot of #SmallCharities have been put off by the delays & the checks. We know it is damaging your confidence, but please do make an application.— Small Charities Coalition #NeverMoreNeeded (@sccoalition) August 3, 2020
Your work is #NeverMoreNeeded
Barely a quarter of charities' coronavirus fund for England allocated https://t.co/4RlrW2vQq9