16 June 2014
The Big Lottery Fund has announced it will match funding allocations from the European Union for regeneration projects, in a boost to the money available to local enterprise partnerships.
The fund announced today that it was in advanced talks to match more than £260m of the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) from 2014-2020 to encourage charities and third sector organisations to bid for funding.
Priorities for the new seven-year programme will be determined by LEPs as part of their local growth plans. Once the ESIF funding package is approved by the European Commission later this year, the matched money will be available for projects that address poverty and social inclusion, such as schemes to improve skills and employability in disadvantaged communities.
The funding deal is intended to increase the involvement of charities in delivering the plans agreed by LEPs, who will take control of allocation European funds from Whitehall.
Big Lottery Fund chief executive Dawn Austwick told delegates at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual conference that £620,000 of lottery funding would also be made available to bring together voluntary organisations in LEP areas. This would ensure they were involved in early conversations about funding opportunities and could start developing bids, ahead of the allocations from local growth deals.
Only a very small proportion of the last round of European Social Fund money was accessed by charities, NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington said. The new round would be focused on a community-led approach.
‘This is very important news for the voluntary sector. Previously, work funded by European social inclusion funding has been nationally designed, and delivered through large organisations.
‘We made very clear that we believe the best way for the funding to make a difference is to use it to support the work of expert charities.
‘This is why we called for the money earmarked for social inclusion to be available to the voluntary sector. Voluntary organisations will now be shaping and running the projects they think are necessary to help people in disadvantaged communities.’
Civil society minister Nick Hurd MP also welcomed the decision, highlighting that ‘social entrepreneurs’ had previously struggled to access funding from the EU.
‘We are determined to change that. Over the last year, Cabinet Office, NCVO and Big Lottery have worked very hard to engage the LEPs and create this exciting opportunity.
‘Now we have to get the detail right – so that this money works as hard as possible on behalf of the most excluded and disadvantaged in communities across the country.’