An evaluation report into the £750m emergency funding package to help voluntary sector organisations cope with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has reached broadly positive conclusions, despite widespread criticism by charities at the time.
The £750m emergency funding package was announced by the government on 8 April 2020.
Voluntary sector organisations said at the time the package was too small and criticised the length of time it took for funds to be distributed.
Some also questioned why the accountancy firm PwC had been awarded a £1.4m contract to oversee distribution of some of the funds.
But the key findings of the report, which has been written by NatCen Social Research and RSM UK Consulting for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, are broadly positive about the programme, concluding that the funding had a positive effect on grantholders and that the application process and reporting requirements were straightforward and proportionate.
It says more than 14,000 organisations received funding from the programme and the evaluation found “strong evidence to conclude that the funding did contribute to the financial position of grantholders”.
It also found strong evidence that the package helped grantees continue and/or expand core services, adapt or introduce new delivery models and support people in need during the pandemic.
But it notes that there was a need for greater appreciation by the government of the sector’s role in the delivery of public services.
“Many respondents felt that there was a lack of understanding that the VCSE sector provided a substantial proportion of vital public services, which helped government with their delivery needs,” it says.
“However, throughout the funding process they felt that the expectation was for the sector to feel grateful for the package of support they received.
“At the same time, sector representatives also recognised that the sector also has a role to play in better communicating its value to government.”
It also says sector representatives wanted the government to trust the sector more, including in the systems and processes organisations already had in place for grant making and delivery.
“Additional systems of checks were seen as an inappropriate use of time, with organisations having to invest additional resource to support third parties brought in to apply these processes,” it says.
“Many organisations, including representative groups, consistently highlighted that the sector has developed systems, mechanisms, ways of working and processes that have been embedded over many years."
Rebecca Young, policy manager at NCVO, said that despite the importance of the funding, the unnecessary duplication of due diligence hindered some charities' access to it and made it harder for charities to act swiftly.
“This needs to be addressed in the event of future crises,” she said.
“The evaluation also recognises the importance of government improving their understanding of, and trust in, the voluntary sector.
“Long-term funding is needed to ensure charities and volunteers can respond to future emergencies and continue to support people experiencing the impact of the pandemic and cost of living crises.”
The report includes data gathered from sources including a survey of almost 2,600 grantholders, more than 100 grantholder interviews and a range of group discussions with sector representatives.