Lottery fund's Compact apology

The Big Lottery Fund has said sorry to an orthodox Jewish charity and handed it almost £60,000 cash after admitting that its funding decisions breached Compact guidelines on grants to ethnic minority groups.

Orthodox Jewish charity Summer Adventure for Inner Londoners contacted the NCVO’s Compact Advocacy Programme through Interlink, an umbrella body for orthodox Jewish voluntary organisations, after the charity was refused funding on religious grounds.

Interlink claimed that the BLF had refused an unreasonable proportion of funding applications from Orthodox Jewish charities and had failed to understand the work of the organisations concerned.

Sail applied to the BLF’s Young People’s programme in 2006 but was told that it did not make grants for religious activities. The charity was told that because the boys who attended its activities had to speak Yiddish and wear orthodox Jewish clothing, it was not eligible for a grant. Interlink said this breached the Compact guidelines for dealing with ethnic minority organisations.

“This case clearly broke the ethnic minority code of the Compact, which says that government and funders should recognise the potential of faith organisations to contribute to social inclusion, which is quite distinct from the promotion of religion,” said Ingela Andersson, Compact advocacy officer at the NCVO.

“We are delighted that the BLF has recognised its breach of the Compact, granted badly needed funding to Sail and given us assurances that this misunderstanding of faith groups will not arise again.”

Chaya Spitz, operations manager at Interlink, said: “The success rate for applications to BLF programmes is currently about 20 per cent, but within the orthodox Jewish voluntary sector it has been much lower than this.”

Sail was subsequently awarded a grant through the BLF’s Reaching Communities programme. Spitz said it was the first time an orthodox Jewish organisation had secured Reaching Communities funding.

A spokeswoman for the BLF said: “Following an initial unsuccessful application to the Young People’s Fund programme, Sail was invited to reapply to the BLF’s Reaching Communities programme and was awarded a grant of £57,196. The BLF works to improve communities and the lives of people most in need and recognises that groups such as Sail, serving particular communities, play an important role in reducing disadvantage.”

The fund apologised for its handling of Sail’s application and pledged to provide additional training for grants officers on the funding of religious charities.

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