Government investigates bullying claims against former National Lottery Community Fund chief

It follows reports in The Times newspaper about the behaviour and language used by Dawn Austwick, who stepped down last year

Dawn Austwick
Dawn Austwick

The government has opened an investigation into allegations of bullying and the use of inappropriate language made against the former chief executive of the National Lottery Community Fund.

The Times newspaper today alleges that a number of senior staff members at the NLCF had spoken out internally regarding the behaviour and language used by ex-chief executive Dawn Austwick.

Austwick stepped down from the grant-giver in December last year after more than seven years in the role

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said it had received informal allegations from four anonymous sources related to the management practices of a previous senior leadership team at the NLCF since 2013. 

The DCMS declined to provide specific details due to confidentiality reasons, but said none of the four sources wished to pursue a formal complaint.

It did reveal that allegations raised in 2017 were focused on procurement and financial management within the fund, which it investigated alongside the Government Internal Audit Agency.

The GIAA found no evidence of impropriety or individual misconduct. 

But it did make recommendations to strengthen governance, risk management and internal controls including the NLCF implementing an updated whistleblowing policy for staff.

The DCMS said all the recommendations had been acted upon.

Third Sector was unable to contact Austwick for comment, but she told The Times: “Any concerns that were raised with me were fully investigated and either resolved or found to be unsubstantiated.”

In a statement, the NLCF said it was aware of the reports about its former chief executive and leadership team.

It said: “There is no place for bullying or inappropriate behaviour at The National Lottery Community Fund.

“We are already in close touch with DCMS on this matter and will fully support any investigation.”

The DCMS said it expected the organisation to be focused on ensuring lottery funding reflects the needs of people across the UK as communities recover from the pandemic.

A department spokesperson said: “There is absolutely no place for bullying or any form of inappropriate behaviour in any organisation.

"We are urgently investigating the allegations made in relation to this organisation and working closely with its new chair, who was appointed by the culture secretary earlier this month.”

Blondel Cluff, a solicitor and former diplomat, has taken up the role of chair of the NLCF for the next four years.

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