The Community Fund is the largest single source of funding to deprived people in England, according to new research from Newcastle University.
A report entitled Mapping Grants to Deprived Communities says the fund has provided an average of 39 per cent of all funding, excluding local authority money, to poor communities over the past three years.
This compares with 24 per cent from trusts and foundations, 19 per cent from the Single Regeneration Budget, 10 per cent from the European Social Fund and 9 per cent from central government departments.
The combined total of deprivation funding from all five sources was £278 million in 1998/9 rising to £391 million in 2000/1. The Community Fund's contribution to that total increased from 37 per cent to 41 per cent over the period.
The report comes as the Government presses ahead with its plans to abolish the fund to create a new "super-lottery distributor", which will deal with 50 per cent of good cause money.
The new research shows that in many areas of England, such as the North West, West Midlands, and eastern England, the fund's share of deprivation grants is well over 40 per cent. It is lowest in London at below 30 per cent.
Local authority funding was not included because accurate data was not available, but researchers estimate that if council grants were taken into consideration, the fund would still be giving £3 out of every £10 of deprivation funding.
The study shows that the fund's commitment to alleviating deprivation has significantly increased since 1998. Seventy-five per cent of the fund's grants in 2000 were for groups working directly to combat deprivation, while 25 per cent were for more general "quality of life" purposes.
In 1998, 56 per cent of the fund's grants went to help deprivation and the remainder for quality of life issues. Deprivation is defined as grants to help the unemployed, those on low incomes and with learning difficulties, the homeless, refugees, crime victims, substance abusers and disabled people.
Richard Gutch, director for England at the Community Fund, said: "The research highlights just how important lottery money is to disadvantaged people right across England. The fund is reaching down to a grass-roots level within some of the poorest communities in England and it is essential that this revenue stream is protected for the future."
The study, undertaken by the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies at Newcastle University, did not include the level of deprivation funding from local authorities because response from councils was too patchy.
However, there are plans to include local authorities in future. "We are talking to the Home Office and the Local Government Association to enable them to take this essential research forward," said Gutch.