An open call for ideas for new Cabinet Office fund

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 or leave a comment below.

UPDATE: We have responded to the consultation, and you can read our response on behalf of our members here.

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Andrew was NCVO’s senior policy officer. He covered issues around funding, social investment, tax and the impact of the economy on the voluntary sector. Andrew has left NCVO, but his posts are kept here for reference purposes.

10 Responses to An open call for ideas for new Cabinet Office fund

  1. Norman Hayes says:

    Hi, I have already applied to our New Horizons group for this award, or rather for the consultation regarding the better care fund….Norman

  2. Tracey Ford says:

    It would be helpful if smaller CIC’s and social enterprises were offered opportunities to partner with larger charities to support capacity building and growth. Many smaller organisations are often excluded when competing with larger organisation for government/mainstream funding. This is an area which needs to be addressed if providers of niche services are unable to provide the real support that is needed to heal communities and troubled families.

  3. sandra jackson says:

    Many small local charities are run mainly by volunteers, provide valuable services for vulnerable people, and run on a shoestring. Without the luxury of paid staff who have the skills needed to complete complex government funding application forms they are losing out on the funding they desperately need in order to survive.

  4. Andrew O’Brien says:

    Thanks Norman, Tracey and Sandra for your comments.

    I think that you raise an interesting point about partnership working, Tracey and that is something that has been raised by a number of others. There may be a role for this fund to play in supporting that.

    Also agree Sandra that the Fund needs to take into account the diversity of the sector and particularly the realities for small local charities.

  5. carol warren says:

    Funds should cover costs to build small organisations. They are often the ones that have contact with vulnerable people (grass roots). Agree with statement above made by Sandra Jackson. Staff with the right skills to not only apply for large funds but to grow the organisation, with a focus on generating its own funds. This method of not putting all your eggs in one basket would not only help the organisaiton to be sustainable but ensure long term support for vulnerable people. I have witnessed many vulnerable people left without any support as a result of the groups that supported them closing due to lack of funds or the knowledge and skills to save it.

  6. This funds sounds like another Changing Futures type fund. Again it is not providing funding for charities to pay staff to get on and do their jobs – ie helping the most vulnerable members of our society. It is going to be used to pay organisations to tell us charities how we should be fundraising, capacity building, becoming sustainable etc etc. Soon there there will be no charities left to do this with. We are all going after the same pots of money – charitable trusts, the lottery etc. County Councils are getting less government money, making more and more cuts to their funding provision. Outsourcing and commissioning more of their services and encouraging redundant County Council staff to set up Social Enterprises who are also going after those same pots of money!! Frustrating!

  7. Jo says:

    I agree with Catherine. There is a lot of information and guidance out there on what charities should be doing in terms of building capacity, sustainability etc and how to do it but the real issue is the capacity within organisations to implement it. In my view it is the smaller – medium sized organisations who are struggling the most. Perhaps an element of the funding could be allocated to actual staffing costs to implement change?

  8. Andrew O’Brien says:

    Thanks for your comments Carol, Catherine and Jo – really useful.

    How this fund can help voluntary organisations have the capacity to become more sustainable, as well as being given to support to achieve it, is a critical issue. It is certainly something that we will be raising as part of our response.

  9. Pingback: BSSEC » New £40m fund to support voluntary sector & social enterprise sustainability — consultation until 24th June

  10. Firstly it would be helpful for small charities such as ourselves to have assistance from NCVO to help us to identify and support us to undertake fundraising activities. We most definitely would not want the local councils to undertake these types of functions or our local CVS which ends up competing with us. Though NCVO is national some of the events you have we don’t have the capacity or the funds to attend and you never visit us. We have had support before from the Cabinet office fund which really helped us to sustain our services to BME families and children. I believe that the funding should only go to frontline services to ensure that people continue to have support from community based organisations. I think organisations with more than £1 million pounds or huge reserves shouldn’t get it. It would be really helpful to have some money so we can train staff (and some volunteers) to attain a professional recognised training certificate.
    If you would like to speak to us, please do not hesitate to contact us.