The National Audit Office (NAO) today released the report on its investigation of the government’s emergency funding package for the charity sector, which the Chancellor announced nearly a year ago on 8 April 2020.
The 42-page document examines the Department for Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) distribution of the money, including how it delivered the package, how charities accessed funding, and the rate of progress.
Last year, DSC pushed for the NAO to undertake this review and provided them with in-depth briefing based on our work with the #NeverMoreNeeded campaign and various Freedom of Information Requests. Their report presents the clearest picture of the funding to date, but it’s still incredibly complicated, and key questions remained unanswered.
The NAO concludes that:
- DCMS specifically was responsible for distributing £513m of the £750m package, via 198 partners (including other government departments, the National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF), and external funders and philanthropists). The NAO has not reviewed the £200m distributed to hospices by the Department for Health and Social Care (DoHSC), which formed a big chunk of the package, or the money that went to devolved administrations.
- On the Coronavirus Community Support Fund and the Community Match Programme, the report notes that: ‘Around the week before the scheme was launched, the Department reduced the amount available through TNLCF from £310 million to £200 million…Using funds that were initially planned for TNLCF, the Department allocated £85 million to 20 philanthropic, foundation and grant-making organisations for onward distribution.’ It notes that as of February 2019 not all these funds have been distributed, despite a requirement that they be spent by the end of March 2021.
- On the distribution of the CCSF and the money available for that programme, NAO concludes that ‘TNLCF received more than 13,800 applications worth nearly £342 million for funding from the CCSF.’ It notes that it ultimately distributed £188m of funding to grantees via the CCSF, after deducting administration costs.
- On the progress of distributing the funding, the NAO states that: ‘When the government announced the package on 8 April 2020, it stressed the need to distribute funding at pace. By the end of July 2020, more than three months after the announcement, charities had received £103 million, 21% of the £494 million available for disbursement.’ By February 2021, nearly one year later, 92% of the funding had been distributed.
- Importantly, on where and what organisations received the funding, the NAO concludes that: ‘The information available on the geographical distribution of funding is at times inconsistent or missing, making it difficult to determine the geographical spread of funding awarded. While the Department has some data on the location of awards, it does not know exactly how much funding has been used to support charities in different parts of the country.’