Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the National Lottery Charities Board


  1.  The Committee has already received written evidence submitted jointly by the Lottery Distributors. This adds to that submission.

  2.  The NLCB was set up in 1994 though it only became operational in 1995. It was a new NDPB whose statutory remit was to give grants to meet the expenditure of charities and other eligible philanthropic and benevolent voluntary organisations. The first awards were made in October 1995 and by the end of March 2000, 31,694 grants had been made totalling just over one and a half billion pounds (see Appendix A).

  3.  The first grants programmes were themed: poverty; youth issues; health; disability and care; new opportunities and choices (covering lifelong learning); housing and the environment. Since 1998, after consultation with the voluntary sector, the NLCB has run two parallel continuous large grants programmes (Poverty and Disadvantage and Community Involvement). It pioneered the original Small Grants scheme for small organisations with an income of up to £15,000 a year who could apply more simply for amounts between £500 and £5,000 and receive a quicker response. This became the joint distributor Awards for All scheme, first in Scotland then England. Awards for All will replace our small grants scheme in Northern Ireland in April 2001. We believe that the entire programme would be enhanced if the New Opportunities Fund were able to join the scheme. This programme has been successful and popular.

  4.  Because the NLCB recognised that the sector from which it would draw its applications was extraordinarily diverse and at different stages in its development, a major theme running through NLCBs grant giving has been that of voluntary sector development.

  5.  Specialist grants programmes have also been developed by the NLCB. There have been five time-limited international grants programmes open to UK based charities working outside the UK and two research programmes open to charities concerned with both medical and social research. It is the NLCBs intention to run both these programmes on a continuous basis during 2001.


  6.  From the outset, the Board decided to allocate its budget across the UK on the basis of population weighted by a range of indicators which took account of relative deprivation in different parts of the UK. For the purposes of distribution the four countries of the UK and the nine regions of England have separate allocations and a percentage of the grant money is kept aside for all UK, International and Research applications. This formula is currently under review.


  7.  The NLCB has set up grant making committees (and offices) in the four countries of the UK and in the English regions and from the outset has been committed to bringing grant making down to the appropriate regional level. Following the new powers given to us in the legislation in 1998, the NLCB has delegated grant-making in England to nine Regional Awards Committees, (supported by nine regional offices), whose members are appointed by the England Committee after advertisement and interview, or in the case of two members, selected by lot. The Board retains its own committee of Board Members for grant making to International, Research and UK-wide applicants.


  8.  The NLCB has always sought to be sensitive to the particular issues faced by the diverse and very large charity and community sector in the UK. Recognising that the entrance of the NLCB into the charitable funding field would have an impact on the sector in general and the community sector in particular, it has attempted to consult widely with the sector about grant programmes and has commissioned research to identify the needs of its various applicants.

  9.  Reasons for refusal of a grant are now given in all cases and many organisations are encouraged to apply again with amended bids. Frequently on subsequent attempts they are successful in their application.


  10.  It is now just over five years since we gave our first grant so Board members decided that it was time to review the past, build on the sure foundations laid and consider how best the organisation should develop in the future. Accordingly a strategic meeting was held by the Board members and the senior staff in October 2000, the purpose of which was to define our future direction and consider the steps needed to prepare our new Strategic Plan for 2002-2005.

  11.  It is well recognised by the Board that the operating climate has changed considerably since the 1993 legislation setting up the National Lottery was passed. Apart from the fact that the National Lottery has been more successful than predicted, there has been a change of government, devolution to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a shift in the funding climate towards partnership and more emphasis on outcomes. There are voluntary sector issues such as a sustainability and funding for core posts or the shortage of volunteers. The NLCB has to be aware of these issues.

  12.  The NLCB is now an established funder of the voluntary and community sector and as such has to attempt to be as responsive and effective as it can be within its limited resources (which account for under 2 per cent of the total funding of the voluntary sector).


  13.  The Board, whilst not changing the general direction of the NLCB, has agreed that it intends to target its resources more over the next three to five years and concentrate more on impact, whilst also continuing to respond to good grant applications by applicants.

  14.  For the time being its current mission statement will continue to be the basis of all its work. The Board's mission is to make grants to groups which help those at greatest disadvantage and which improve the quality of life in the community. It will continue to adhere to the values and advantages of being a UK-wide organisation but has recognised that it must put the principles of subidiarity into practice at the country and regional level. It has confirmed that equality of opportunity must be central in its grant making, will seek to be more customer focused and responsive, and less bureaucratic, but at the same time retaining the current integrity of its processes.


  15.  We will launch two new continuous specialist programmes (Research in June 2001 and International in early 2002), and amalgamate our current two large grants programmes (Comunity Involvement and Poverty and Disadvantage) into one. We will introduce a new simplified programme for those applying for grants up to £60,000 (to be piloted in three areas). We are considering the introduction of one or more new UK-wide high-level focused programmes. We are undertaking considerable work on evaluation and have developed a research strategy to develop our grant making.

  16.  The application of the principle of subsidiary means that there are and will continue to be specific funding priorities at country and regional level, although the NLCB will remain a UK-wide generalist grant giver. These local funding priorities will be sensitive to the needs of each geographic area and we will use the knowledge gained and our experience of the operation of funding priorities during the period of the current strategic plan to develop the next.


  17.  We are very conscious of the advantages of new technology and the Internet and the speed of change. We plan to establish a joint web site with other Lottery Distributors early in 2001, in addition to the existing NLCB web site and we have introduced a new and more accessible application form on disk.


  18.  The NLCB, in its desire to be efficient and effective, has developed a system of performance indicators and monitoring procedures. We are in the process of introducing a custom built major new computer system designed to cope with present and future demands. We are committed to equality of opportunity and are seeking IIP status. We have recently completed a review of our corporate governance.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 23 January 2001