Government begins consultation on £40m sustainability fund

The Office for Civil Society wants views on identifying beneficiary organisations, third party intermediaries and how big grants should be

Cabinet Office, home of the Office for Civil Society
Cabinet Office, home of the Office for Civil Society

The Office for Civil Society has launched a consultation on its forthcoming £40m sustainability fund, which will provide financial support and advice to struggling third sector organisations.

The fund, which is due to open for applications next year, will support medium-sized voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises in England that are delivering services to vulnerable and disadvantaged groups and are struggling because of reductions in public spending, changes in the way services are funded or commissioned, or the effects of the downturn.

The 12-week consultation, which opened yesterday, asks questions such as how the OCS should identify beneficiary organisations, whether third party intermediaries should be used to deliver the fund, what sort of support is needed and how much money should be available to individual organisations: this includes the size of grant to be given and the size of organisation that should benefit.

The consultation document says an early suggestion was for an average grant size of £30,000 and a cap of £50,000, which would allow about 1,300 organisations to benefit.

It says that the fund will prioritise medium-sized organisations, which it defines as those with annual turnovers anywhere between £50,000 and £1.5m.

Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, announced the fund in March. He said at the time: "For a while I’ve been concerned that a significant number of often medium-sized organisations delivering valuable services that have struggled on, maybe eating into their reserves, are financially vulnerable.

"We need to be absolutely sure that we focus it on the right type of organisations and that it’s structured in a way that will underpin their long-term resilience. I don’t want it to be just about money – it will be money plus advice. I’ll be disappointed if it’s less than £40m."

Asheem Singh, director of public policy at the charity leaders organisation Acevo said: "We argued strongly that a fund like this was necessary, so it is good that the Cabinet Office is listening to the sector’s needs. We hope this consultation will be the beginning of even stronger government engagement with the voluntary sector, and that it will ensure our sector receives adequate support and payment for the work it does."

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 24 July, after which the design of the fund should be finalised during the summer, the OCS said.

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