Threat to the National Lottery Community Fund

Today we are calling on the government to heed concerns about unprecedented cuts facing charities and act to protect the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), which is the sector’s largest single funder.

See the story on BBC News and in The Times.

Use our new data tool to see what NLCF has funded in your constituency.

What we know

Last week an anonymous campaign, ‘Save the National Lottery Community Fund’, was launched, claiming that £320m of NLCF funds was going to be diverted to compensate for forthcoming cuts to the arts and sports sectors.

A quick round of calls established that there was indeed something of this nature in the offing, though we are still not able to confirm precise figures.

Earlier this week, NCVO and ACEVO wrote to ministers to try and head these plans off at the pass and have made contact with various government officials. None of these conversations has provided the reassurance we have sought, hence we are calling on our members to take action now to support these efforts.

You can read more of the background in our press release.

Why it matters – the big and the small

Charities benefit from funding from all of the Lottery distributors, but the National Lottery Community Fund is – as its name suggests – the biggest. It’s funding is worth around £500m a year, of which 95% goes to voluntary organisations. This makes it the largest single funder of the voluntary sector in the UK.

Despite its name, the other important thing to note is that NLCF’s grants are primarily small amounts. Ninety per cent of its grants are for less than £10,000. This vital source of funding for small organisations enables people to come together in support of their communities and deliver projects that make a real difference.

Neither NCVO nor ACEVO would wish to pit good causes against each other. The arts, heritage and sports distributors make a valuable contribution to our communities and national life. We believe that government recognises this too and is looking to mitigate the worst impact of potential Department for Culture, Media and Sport cuts. But using Lottery cash is not the right way to do this. ‘Additionality’ is a cherished principle underpinning the Lottery – that it should add to public services, not be used to backfill spending cuts.

Finally, it need hardly be said, but charities are under a great deal of pressure and will be further squeezed by cuts to be announced next week. The sector currently receives £13bn in income from government grants and contracts, much of which could be at risk in the coming years. Central and local government grants have halved in real terms between 2006/07 and 2012/13, from £4.5 billion to £2.2 billion with the trend projected to continue downwards.

Even bigger issues

In our preparations for the spending review and autumn statement, NLCF was only one of a list of potential threats to the voluntary sector. As mentioned above, cuts to frontline services, particularly local services, are likely to have a much bigger impact.

And with the chancellor’s announcement of devolving business rates to Local Authorities, we have also been seeking confirmation that charities will continue to be exempt from paying 80% of these rates. On this, we have had slightly more reassuring sounds from the Treasury. The success of the sector’s 2012 ‘Give It Back George’ campaign is perhaps not so far forgotten in some quarters.

What can I do?

Call or email your local MP today and tell them how vital NLCF funds are to organisations in your community. Use our new data tool to show them the contribution NLCF has made through projects in your constituency.

Follow latest developments and join in the debate on social media using #SR2015 and #VCS next week.

Charlotte Ravenscroft, head of policy and public services, NCVO, and Asheem Singh, director of public policy, ACEVO.


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Charlotte Ravenscroft was NCVO’s head of policy and public services. Charlotte’s wrote about funding, public service delivery, and strengthening the evidence base for voluntary action. She has also worked at The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Education.

11 Responses to Threat to the National Lottery Community Fund

  1. The grant we had from the Lottery Fund was invaluable in helping us develop Boundary Brook Nature Park a prize winning wildlife reserve used by school groups, people with special needs and the general public.

  2. We have not received or made an application to the big lottery fund but are in the process to do so. We think the government should think carfully as the BLF money provides support to really good cause projects.

  3. The big lottery fund money provides support to reall ygood causes projects.

  4. Maureen Williams says:

    We have used Awards for All several times for projects that were hugely successful in achieving objectives, supporting and empowering vulnerable people and proving concepts for larger projects. We have also had larger funding that enabled us to trail blaze in our local third sector support and development. It was bad enough when The Millennium Dome swept up lottery funds. My Trustees and I completely support the principal of “additionality” and want to keep Lottery Funds for Third Sector priorities not Government shortfalls.

  5. Karen Walker says:

    The government need to take a very careful look at what ‘life saving’ (in many cases) support the BLF has provided to many people across the country. Although I agree Art and Sport, especially sport are important, they are not as vital to life as many other projects are.
    There was very little in the way of paid for sports years ago – children played out; families went to the local cricket match etc – NO COST. More emphasis on families getting their children to play out and adults undertaking cost free sports can help people to keep healthy and also goes a long way to building stronger communities; therefore leaving funding, that is needed much more in other areas ‘ALONE’.

  6. Joanne Bates says:

    As a long term unpaid carer I use the Services of a local Carers Service which is a charity that supports unpaid carers. This organisation is largely funded by the big lottery and relies on this money to carry on supporting very vulnerable adults in their caring role. Unpaid carers save the government 19 billion pounds per year so stop subsidising your spending cuts by using money that helps some of the most vulnerable people in the country. If money is syphoned from the Big lottery all third sector organisations will be affected and also in relation to unpaid carers if their support stops then the Health and social care budget will increase as unpaid carers will become unable to carry on in their role.
    Taking money to support especially arts seems ridiculous if it means vulnerable people will suffer on a very basic level.
    Also as someone who goes on the lottery partly to support charities i would be much less likely to participate if i knew money was being used to plug government shortfalls.

    • Joanne Bates says:

      Just an amendment to my own comment, there is a mistake on a figure quoted it should be 119 Billion pounds but I believe that figure has now increased to 132 Billion pounds per year.

  7. Fatmata Bah says:

    The Big Lottery Fund made it possible for Home-Start Haringey to continue to provide services for vulnerable families in the Borough when we lost our Local Authority grant in the first wave of recession cuts. After 13 years in Haringey we were faced with closing this June when all our funding streams ended. New funding from the Big Lottery has made it possible for our service to be available to statutory referrers, other voluntary sector referrers and vulnerable families who are struggling with raising children in one of the most deprived Borough’s in London, with an Obesity crisis and high levels of intergenerational unemployment that adversely impacts on their day to day lives. Families dealing with postnatal depression, domestic violence survivors, health issues, isolation and loneliness would have lost access to the befriending support of a local parent volunteer. Without this funding strand our service will no longer exist.

  8. Ann Stockc says:

    I am the secretary to our residents association & Social club where i live. Its a self-sufficient sheltered housing complex. We have had two Awards For All grants. The first was to replace the armchairs and curtains as after a fire check we was told they were not fireproofed. The second was to have double glaze windows and doors put in as the reidents used to sit and play cards in their coats. Without the grants the residents would be isolated. We are going to be in the process in applying for another grant as we need to have an extension to the communal lounge so these grants are very important to small associations like us.

  9. Louise Gates says:

    Our Big Lottery Funding allows us to deliver a free, full-time gardening and horticultural therapy service to people with disabilities and mental health issues. Without it, we couldn’t function and 50 people a year, would loose the opportunity for supported learning, exercise and social contact with others.

  10. Charlotte Ravenscroft says:

    Dear all,

    We are very pleased that the Chancellor has heeded our concerns and maintained the current Lottery funding arrangements. This means that Big Lottery Fund will be able to continue its vital grant funding programmes.

    The announcement was made as part of the Spending Review last week and also included identifying additional government funding for the arts, heritage and sports (instead of diverting Big Lottery money to these causes).

    Thanks to all our members who spoke out on the issue, it made a big difference in helping to save £320m for the voluntary sector!