Behind the headlines

The merger of two separate National Lottery funds for good
causes is being viewed as a threat by some parts of the voluntary
sector. Once again the government has wheeled out the word
“modernisation” to explain its plans to bring together the New
Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. It will provide a more
“responsive and streamlined source of funding and support” for
disadvantaged communities, says secretary of state for culture,
media and sport Tessa Jowell. But differences in the running of the
two funds have provoked fears that the government will exercise
more control over who gets the money. New Opportunities Fund money
has been used largely for mainstream projects concerned with
health, education and the environment. The Community Fund has more
freedom to finance a variety of work with social excluded groups.
Many in the voluntary sector feel the government may intervene to
stop money going to unpopular causes. Some are also worried that
the “principle of additionality”, which ensures that the money is
additional to existing public spending, will be sacrificed.

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the
I have no problem with a merger between the New
Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund, as long as there are
clear assurances that it will produce more money for distribution,
that the voluntary sector element will be clearly ring-fenced,
independently allocated and based on the principle of
additionality. It will also be interesting to monitor whether the
way the decision is finally made is within the spirit of the
voluntary sector compact, or imposed unilaterally by the government
on the sector.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“The key issue here is that there would be a real risk
that some people would no long perceive the Community Fund as
independent of government. If an application for funding is not one
that clearly delivers on the government’s priorities and is not
successful, there will be suspicions, however unfounded, that other
influences have been brought to bear. This would do neither the
government nor the charitable sector any favours – this merger
should go back to the drawing board.”

Karen Squillino, senior practitioner, Barnardo’s
“It is my view that the voluntary sector is there to add
value to statutory services and provide services for groups who do
not always have access to government-funded services. If this
proposal goes ahead then the voluntary sector will become
contracted agents to the government that will mean that certain
groups needing services will be bypassed. The voluntary sector
needs to remain autonomous in order to reach groups that are not
high on the government agenda.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“The New Opportunities Fund targeting money at government
priorities and the Community Fund supporting local action both have
value and illustrate the two sides of the compact with the
voluntary sector. A merger of the two under the jaded banner of
economy, effectiveness, and efficiency causes concern. Both funds
will lose out. Government must also be more honest about its
dependence on the voluntary sector and should fund the foundations
as well as the frills for the services it requires, without making
it a lottery.”

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“It is a sad reflection on the declining level of trust in
the government that any proposals to ‘modernise’ or ‘streamline’
are met with widespread cynicism. The prime minister has espoused
the idea of a ‘new localism’, yet here is a proposal that will
centralise funding for voluntary organisations. Much firmer
assurances are needed from Tessa Jowell, otherwise the suspicion
will remain that policy is unduly influenced by what is said in the
Daily Mail rather than what is said by the voluntary movement


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