The Charities Board has a strong track record in initiating and furthering cross-distributor work, co-ordinating, sharing expertise and pooling resources with the other distributors. The most successful application of this to date has been the Awards for All programme. Small voluntary organisations, many of whom reported a drop in public donations following the introduction of the Lottery, have gained much from the extension of the Small grants scheme. Many small groups have been able to access much-needed start-up and project development funding, and the success of this programme has gone part of the way to allaying the concerns of this part of the sector.

The Charities Board could go further, however, in addressing the issue of core funding, which is a key one for the voluntary sector. It has now funded a large number of small organisations, and its support of these organisations needs to go further than simply assessing the strength of an individual bid. There needs to be further consideration given to what happens when a three-year funding term comes to an end, and how organisations might be assisted in developing exit strategies to help them move forward. England and England Regional Awards Committees annual budgets that are based on population but weighed heavily for levels of disadvantage. Northern Ireland, for example, rightly gets twice as much money per head as the South East of England. In principle, the regional committees were expected to achieve the same fair distribution within their own areas, but this has been less successful.

In two regions we have examined there was limited success in getting more money to the areas of greatest need. The major cities did well, but, for example, older industrial towns such as Rochdale, St Helens and Halton has fared poorly, as had the markedly deprived rural areas of Cornwall. We have suggested therefore that indicative local budgets, to be achieved over time, should be set within each region on the same basis.

However the main reason for devolving grant making is different it is to enable local people to make local decisions about local needs. The regional committees have basically been required to use the Charities Board’s superb grant scoring and assessment system to implement centrally rather than locally determined policies. Not unnaturally, awards committees are seeking to override these procedures in order to support their own local priorities. This would be a pity, as the systematic, fair and transparent nature of the Charities Board’s assessments is enormously valuable. Learn more: Act Conveyancing Sydney

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