Government criticised over 'ridiculously short' application window to run part of £15m fund

The Office for Civil Society has offered an eight-day window for grant-makers to apply to administrate part of the so-called Tampon Tax Fund

The Department for Culture, Media & Sport, home of the Office for Civil Society
The Department for Culture, Media & Sport, home of the Office for Civil Society

Charity sector bodies have criticised the government for offering a "ridiculously short" application window to administrate part of the £15m Tampon Tax Fund. 

The fund, which was announced at last year’s Autumn Statement, offers £15m of funding to women’s charities that is equivalent to the amount HM Revenue and Customs believes is raised from VAT on women’s sanitary products.

The Office for Civil Society issued an invitation to tender on Thursday looking for a grant-maker to distribute £3m from scheme through a funding programme for charities helping disadvantaged women and girls.

But the department has been criticised for setting a closing date of midnight on Friday 28 October – eight days after the invitation to tender was published – with a view to announcing the successful applicant at this year’s Autumn Statement on 23 November.

The government’s announcement about the invitation to ten

der says that the successful applicant must be able to offer a level of match funding and commit to the full amount by the end of the financial year, as well as having the relevant networks already in place.

The publication of the invitation to tender also occurred during the October half-term break.

Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, said: "This is a ridiculously short application window and represents terrible funding practice – especially because there is a requirement for match funding.

"Even though eligible applicants will be grant-makers, ostensibly with accessible capital to contribute, I can’t see them breaking down the door to be involved with this fund at such short notice."

He said: "It’s possible that the Office for Civil Society already has a suitable candidate in mind, in which case they should just go ahead and commission them directly rather than tender openly on such an absurdly short basis – which wastes everybody’s time.

"As the representative of the charity sector within government, this department urgently needs to up its game with how it does commissioning and grant-making. Examples like this seem to be more not less frequent recently, which sends completely the wrong signal to other departments and agencies."

In August, the DSC was among the organisations to criticise the government for giving less than two weeks to apply to run a fund designed to incentivise giving to local charities.

Andrew O’Brien, head of policy and engagement at the Charity Finance Group, said: "This is another example of why the government needs to be much more strategic about grant giving, and not view fines or returns from the so-called ‘tampon tax’ as announcements to grab headlines.

"As we have argued through the ‘Grants for Good’ campaign, grants are valuable and necessary to support the work of the charity sector, but they need to be given enough time to enable charities, particularly small organisations, to put forward effective plans.

"A £3m grant fund should have a window larger than eight days for applications and the Office of Civil Society should be trying to set a good example to the rest of government."

A government spokesman said: "We want to recruit someone to administer this as soon as possible so that we can benefit a range of organisations whose work focuses on improving the lives of vulnerable women and girls."

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