At the start of the month, the Cabinet Office unveiled a consultation for a “new fund to support the sustainability of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector”.
The fund, which is believed to be worth around £40m, will be open for bids from April 2015 and will run for one year.
Building on the work of the Transition Fund and Transforming Local Infrastructure Fund, this new source of support will aim to help organisations which are delivering services for vulnerable people adapt to the changing operating landscape and improve their sustainability.
Additional support to the sector in adapting to the tough economic climate is certainly welcome. As our latest UK Civil Society Almanac reported, funding for the sector fell in 2011/12, driven by cuts to public spending and this pressure is only likely to have increased.
While the best way for the government to support the sector would be to improve public sector commissioning; funding to enable organisations to plan for the future and take steps to improve their sustainability could have a positive impact if delivered effectively.
Who, what, when, where?
However, there are a number of challenges facing any fund like this and the Cabinet Office’s consultation is framed as an “open call for ideas” from the sector. Here are some of the key questions.
Who should the fund support?
As the fund will be quite small, resources need to be targeted at those organisations that need it most. Who should be eligible for funding? What parts of the voluntary sector most need help adapting to changing times?
What kind of support do charities need?
The consultation proposes funding to help organisations cut costs, identify new sources of funding, build capacity and analyse future needs. But are there other areas where charities might need support e.g. governance?
Where is support most needed?
The fund will be open to organisations across England, but as the consultation document points out, different parts of the country have different needs. How can the fund reflect that and find ways to support organisations in these areas?
How do we identify those that need support?
Charities that are most in need of support are unlikely to have the time or resources to devote to applying for this fund. How do we make sure that these charities can access the fund? Should local actors such as VCSs, LEPs and local councils help identify those that need support?
Lots of questions, but what are your views?
The consultation runs until the 24 July and NCVO will be putting together a response on behalf of members and the voluntary sector to answer these questions, and others.
In developing our response we would like to get your views on what kind of support would best support organisations adapt in this changing funding climate. If you would like to help, please get in touch by emailing me Andrew.Obrien@ncvo.org.uk or leave a comment below.
UPDATE: We have responded to the consultation, and you can read our response on behalf of our members here.