Finance News: Health focus for Futurebuilders

Health and social care groups have dominated the first tranche of applications to the new Futurebuilders fund.

Organisations working in that field make up 32 per cent of the groups to have so far sought finance from the Government-backed fund, set up to help charities deliver public services. They also make up a third of all applications shortlisted.

Since its launch in July, the £125m fund has received 644 applications, of which 167 have been shortlisted for investment. Another 337 have yet to be assessed. The next largest sub-sector is education and learning, comprising a quarter of applicants, and children and young people's groups, making up 18 per cent.

The fund is least popular with crime-reduction charities, which only make up 6 per cent of the total.

Speaking at the Action Planning Funding the Future conference last week, chief executive of Futurebuilders England Richard Gutch said: "I am delighted with the response Futurebuilders has received so far. At the end of the first application window, the volume and distribution of applications was very encouraging and broadly consistent with our expectations in all areas except crime and community cohesion, where we will need to put special emphasis going forward."

Figures released by the fund also show that smaller organisations have applied in larger numbers than expected. Groups with income below £100,000 comprise a third of all applicants, well above Futurebuilders' target of 20 per cent. But the quality of their applications seems not to have been as strong - only 22 per cent of them have been shortlisted, in contrast with 51 per cent of applicants from the £100,000 to £1m income bracket.

Black and minority ethnic groups account for a quarter of all applications and rural voluntary bodies a fifth.

Futurebuilders chairman Peter Wheeler said that the fund's first investment announcements would be made early next year. "Much of our attention in the coming months will be focused on the public sector purchasers of services from our applicant organisations, and the need to ensure that sound commercial arrangements are structured between the Government and the voluntary sector at the grass-roots level," he said.

Successful applicants will be funded by a loan that has to be repaid through revenues generated by contracts or with statutory bodies. "We have made it clear that Futurebuilders is specifically targeted at those organisations involved, or wanting to become involved, in public service delivery and which are willing to take out a loan," said Gutch.

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