The government is preparing to pilot a multimillion-pound grants application portal intended to simplify the process of applying for funding for charities and voluntary sector organisations.
The £7.9m project was announced as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s 2021 Autumn Budget statement, which promised funding and reliefs worth billions of pounds to the sector.
The development of the portal is being funded through the Shared Outcome Fund, which aims to “test innovative ways of working across the public sector”.
The government confirmed that the pilot is being hosted by the Cabinet Office and will be carried out in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Trade.
A policy document published alongside the SOF announcement said: “The pilot will build an innovative grants application service making it simpler, faster and fairer to find and apply for grant funding.
“It will drive awareness of the range of funding opportunities available for all charities and voluntary sector organisations, increasing competition and enabling wider distribution of taxpayers’ money.”
The government said the project is due to launch in spring next year.
But Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, pointed out on Twitter that it is not the first time the government has floated such an idea.
He said: “Jesus wept I really have been in this game too long – check out this old chestnut.”
Kennedy shared a nearly 20-year-old review document published by the Treasury in 2002 titled The Role of the Voluntary and Community Sector in Service Delivery.
It recommended that the government should develop an “electronic portal to give a common point of access to government grant funding for the sector”.
This was due to be implemented by April 2004.
The sector gave a mixed response to Sunak’s budget yesterday, while the shadow civil society minister, Rachael Maskell, observed that the Chancellor “failed to mention charities once… despite the important role they have played over the past 18 months”.