Government to pilot multi-million pound grant application portal

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The government is preparing to pilot a multi-million pound grant application portal designed to simplify the process of applying for funding for charities and voluntary sector organisations.

The £7.9m project was announced as part of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Autumn 2021 budget statement, which promised billions of pounds worth of funding and relief to the sector.

The development of the portal is funded by the Shared Outcome Fund, which aims to “test innovative ways of working in the public sector”.

The government has confirmed that the pilot is hosted by the Cabinet Office and will be carried out in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; the Ministry of Justice and the Department of International Trade.

A policy document released alongside the SOF announcement said: “The pilot will create an innovative grant application service, which will make it simpler, faster and fairer to find and apply for funding.

“It will raise awareness of the range of funding opportunities available to all charities and voluntary organisations, increasing competition and enabling a wider distribution of taxpayers’ money.”

The government has said the project is due to start in the spring of next year.

But Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change, pointed out on Twitter that this is not the first time that the government has launched such an idea.

He said, “Jesus wept, I’ve really been in this game too long – look at that old chestnut tree.”

Kennedy shared a nearly 20-year-old review document released by the Treasury in 2002 titled The role of the voluntary sector in service delivery.

He recommended that the government develop an ‘e-portal to give a common access point to government grants for the sector’.

This was to be implemented in April 2004.

The sector gave a mixed response to Sunak’s budget yesterday, while Shadow Civil Society Minister Rachael Maskell observed that the Chancellor “did not mention charities once…despite the important role that they have been playing for the last 18 months”.

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