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Funding the Future Conference

12 February 2010

Yesterday’s Funding the Future Conference at Westminster Central Hall gave me a chance to make some significant announcements about the Big Lottery Fund’s flagship programme in England, Reaching Communities.

First, in response to loud representations from the Voluntary and Community Sector, we emphasised our continued commitment to a large “open” programme in which organisations are given plenty of space to determine the outcomes that they deem to be of most importance in their area.  We have promised to devote at least £100 million a year for every year through to 2015 to a programme of this kind.  Over 1,400 groups have already benefited from the £336 million distributed through Reaching Communities since it began.  We are going to be able to more than double that impact, without any difficulty at all.

I also announced three important enhancements to the Reaching Communities programme, all of which were well received.  First, I said we would be introducing a lighter touch variant of Reaching Communities.  While many people out there value the chance of accessing up to £500,000 for up to five years, there are others who, particularly in the current, uncertain, times are looking for less money, sometimes for a shorter period.  However, until now, we have required them to complete the same application processes that we would expect from someone looking for the larger sum.  That is why we will, from this Spring, offer a slimmed down “Reaching Communities-lite” with assessment processes more proportionate to the cash being sought. Second, we heard from lots of people during our Big Thinking consultation that they would rather we took quicker decisions earlier in the application process.  As a result, we will also introduce a two stage decision-making process into Reaching Communities.  More applicants will get a definitive decision sooner.  Those that proceed to full assessment will stand a greater chance of eventual success.  These arrangements will reduce nugatory work by unsuccessful applicants and allow BIG to spend less of grant assessment and more on getting money directly to the good causes.  Thirdly, within the Reaching Communities programme we will, later in the year, open a dedicated capital stream to help support refurbishment projects where we know there is a lot of unmet demand.

Throughout this period Reaching Communities will remain open for business, so keep those applications flowing and look out for the improvements as they take effect in the coming weeks. We will introduce these seamlessly so that as much of what you are familiar with and have told us you like about the programme will remain unchanged.

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