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Lottery match set to open up major European funding opportunities for voluntary sector

The National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) is in advanced talks to match over £260 million of Lottery funding with money from Europe in a move that will open up new funding opportunities for the sector, The National Lottery Community Fund chief executive, Dawn Austwick, told delegates today at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ conference, Evolve.

The move follows months of work from NCVO, government departments and NLCF, looking at how to increase sector involvement in European funding, which historically has been limited.

Priorities for the new seven-year, 2014-2020 round of the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) growth programme have been determined locally by England’s local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) – local bodies with representatives from business, skills and the voluntary sector (1).

Once the ESIF funding package is approved by the European Commission later this year, NLCF will be able to match over £260m of Lottery funding in England against a similar figure from ESIF for projects that address poverty and social inclusion, for example, by improving skills, employability and education opportunities in disadvantaged communities.

The combined monies will be managed by the NLCF, with charities able to bid to deliver the work they think best meet the needs in their areas.

Dawn Austwick also told delegates that, ahead of plans to make the main funding available next year, the distributor would be making £620,000 of Lottery funding available over the summer to bring together voluntary organisations in LEP areas, ensuring they are involved in early conversations about the funding opportunities and can start developing bids.

Only a very small proportion of the last round of European Social Fund money was accessed by charities, with the vast bulk going to larger organisations or reaching the voluntary sector only through prime providers delivering top-down programmes. The new round of European funding represents a substantially more community-led approach, NCVO said today.

The move follows work by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Minister for Civil Society to encourage the local bodies to allocate funding to social inclusion work.
Commenting, Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:

‘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.

‘We have had constructive conversations with government departments, who have recognised the value that voluntary organisations bring. I’m pleased that NCVO has been able to work so positively with government and the NLCF to realise this substantial and important opportunity for the sector.

‘I am also grateful to our European Funding Network and other local voluntary sector leaders who have put the case so convincingly to local enterprise partnerships around the country that they must prioritise this opportunity.’

Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, said:

‘In the past, our social entrepreneurs have struggled to access funding from the EU. We are determined to change that. Over the last year, Cabinet Office, NCVO and NLCF 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.’


Further information

To be kept up-to-date with further developments, have a look at the European Funding Network website

For media queries, please contact the NCVO press office.


1) LEPs determine local spending priorities in accordance with national guidance from BIS, which was issued last year 

The funding is subject to approval by the European Commission and NCLF’s formal appointment as an opt-in organisation.

European Social Fund logoArrangements for distribution of the UK’s European Structural and Investment Funds have been negotiated for England by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). Within ESIF, the European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional and Development Fund (ERDF) are currently managed separately. ESF is managed in the UK by the Department for Work and Pensions, with ERDF managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government. NCVO, the Cabinet Office, BIS, DWP and DCLG have worked together, along with NLCF, to significantly improve access to social inclusion funding from these programmes for voluntary organisations.


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