The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has redrafted its guidance for applications to the Tampon Tax Fund after it appeared to suggest that charities could use the funding to support campaigning and awareness-raising work.
The government announced this week that a new round of funding was available for women’s charities, with a total of £15m available through grants of at least £1m each.
The guidance for the latest round of funding says charities must demonstrate how they align with and support the delivery of the violence against women and girls strategy, including by promoting public awareness of the VAWG strategy.
But in a section of the guidance called "exclusions", charities are warned that applications for funding will not be successful if they are for financing campaigning and awareness-raising work, as well as non-socially-inclusive arts projects or any appeals or advocacy work.
Third Sector understands that the first section, which suggests that promoting public awareness of the VAWG strategy is acceptable in the current funding round, was added to the guidance in error.
That line will now be removed from the guidance, and charities that apply for Tampon Tax Fund money for campaigning and awareness-raising work will definitely not receive grants.
This appears to suggest that the so-called "gagging clause", which has been heavily criticised by the charity sector in the past, will remain a condition of receiving tampon tax funding.
The charity chief executives body Acevo criticised the Tampon Tax Fund guidance for appearing to contradict the VAWG strategy, despite the guidance asking applicants to demonstrate how they align with and support the delivery of the strategy.
The VAWG strategy calls for "increased awareness across all sections of society that VAWG is unacceptable" and highlights how "engaging the public through awareness campaigns and bystander programmes" can help victims of violence and abuse get help at an earlier point.
Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: "This grant specification demonstrates a contradiction at the heart of this government's view of the value of civil society: offering funding to tackle the huge problem of violence against women, specifically including raising awareness, while at the same time explicitly ruling out campaigning and raising awareness as a use for the funding.
"It sends a conflicting message to those charities that simultaneously deliver services and raise awareness, both of which are vital to organisations tackling violence against women."
She called for the gagging clause to be removed from the guidance.
Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the women’s charity umbrella body the Women’s Resource Centre, said: "Given that the improvement in women’s lives is almost entirely due to the concerted efforts of women’s groups influencing change, it is ridiculous to use ‘gagging’ clauses in government funding that is aimed at addressing the considerable barriers we still face across all aspects of our lives."
A spokeswoman for the DCMS said: "We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers’ money goes to help good causes and is not used for political lobbying and campaigning. The money generated from the sale of sanitary products is used to help disadvantaged women and girls directly.
"The fund is already making a real difference to women's lives, addressing serious issues that they face and supporting organisations across the country."
The Tampon Tax Fund was announced in the 2015 Autumn Statement to provide funding to women’s health and support charities using VAT income from women’s sanitary products, which has to be charged because of EU regulations.