Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the New Opportunities Fund


  1.1  This submission provides a brief introduction to the New Opportunities Fund. Annex 1 describes our current grant programmes and gives examples of projects that we have funded.

  1.2  The New Opportunities Fund is a Lottery Distribution Body created by the National Lottery Act 1998. It was established to make grants to health, education and environment projects under initiatives specified by the Government. Many of our grant programmes focus particularly on those who are most disadvantaged in society.

  1.3  In its White Paper, The People's Lottery and in the National Lottery Act 1998, the Government made it clear that it wished to refocus Lottery funding on the needs and concerns of local communities, to increase access to funding and to ensure more equitable distribution. The creation of the New Opportunities Fund reflected these priorities.

  1.4  Our initiatives are proposed by the Government and subject to consultation and Parliamentary scrutiny. They are then developed and delivered by the Fund. In this, the Fund works closely with Government departments, devolved administrations, regional bodies and other partners and providers to ensure that we complement their work. Programmes have been developed in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to meet each country's distinct needs and are supported by specific members of the Fund's Board and by offices in London, Glasgow, Cardiff and Belfast.

  1.5  A recent MORI survey[1] has confirmed that the public supports the targeting of Lottery funding on those areas—health, education and environment—in which the Fund distributes grants. When asked to identify the two or three most important areas for Lottery funding, out of a list of 10, 69 per cent of respondents identified health, 55 per cent education and 26 per cent the environment.


  2.1  The Fund is proud of its performance over the first two years. It has established itself as a major grant maker and developed innovative grant making practices. It has enabled much needed educational, environmental and health related initiatives, which would not otherwise be funded, to go ahead. Over 2,000 grants have been awarded, many involving large numbers of individual projects. Over £614 million has been allocated to projects. The impact of these grants already includes childcare schemes that will create more than 110,000 new childcare places, training in the use of information and communication technologies for over 160,000 teachers, new cancer equipment in hospitals and new preventative health services for deprived communities.

  2.2  Over the last two years, the Fund has launched 13 grant programmes under six major initiatives. These are:

    —  Healthy living centres (£300 million)—grants to promote health and wellbeing for the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of the UK's population, including activities such as help with smoking cessation, supporting healthy eating, promoting mental health and developing new ways of working with primary care.

    —  Out of school hours (£425 million)—grants for out of school hours childcare projects and out of school hours learning, including summer schools.

    —  Information and Communication Technology (ICT) training and content creation (£300 million)—grants to fund appropriate training for all serving teachers who need it; money is also allocated to train public library staff and for the digitisation of learning materials.

    —  Living with cancer (£150 million)—grants available for the purchase of breast screening equipment and other scanning and radio-therapy equipment, and for palliative care and cancer prevention projects, particularly in areas of disadvantage.

    —  Green spaces and sustainable communities (£125 million)—grants to help communities understand, improve and care for their natural and living environment.

    —  Community access to lifelong learning (£200 million)—grants for projects designed to support the development of ICT access to information and lifelong learning.

  More details of these programmes are provided in Annex 1.

  2.3  By 2003 we expect to have approved grants worth £1.5 billion under these six initiatives. We are looking forward to developing a new (third) round of initiatives, on which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and devolved administrations will be consulting in the Autumn.


  3.1  The New Opportunities Fund has made a significant contribution to the distribution of Lottery money. This arises from our particular focus on health, education and environmental projects. Equally importantly, our contribution stems from our approach to grant making. As a new Lottery Distributor, the Fund has been able to build on the experience and best practice of our fellow distributors. We have also put considerable energy and resources into developing grant making which seeks to ever better reflect the wishes of Parliament and the Government, the nature of the sectors we work in, and the expectations of the public.

  3.2  The Fund is committed to working in partnership to support projects which:

    —  improve the quality of life for individuals and communities;

    —  promote social inclusion;

    —  encourage community involvement; and

    —  complement and enhance relevant national, regional and local strategies and programmes.

  3.3  All our grant making programmes have been developed to achieve these aims.

Inclusion and Equity

  3.4  In order to promote social inclusion and tackle disadvantage, we expect all applicants to explain how their project will target socially excluded communities and groups. For our competitive grant programmes, we have identified areas where levels of deprivation are significant and where funding should be targeted. For example, in the out of school hours learning programme, half of our funding is targeted at schools in the most disadvantaged areas (based on the levels of free school meals). Elements of our living with cancer programme in England are focused on the particular needs of ethnic minority communities.

  3.5  We are committed to avoiding discrimination in our grant making and within our organisation. We are developing an annual equality report and are establishing an equality forum to advise and comment on our grant making processes.

  3.6  We closely monitor the distribution of our funding among regions and local authorities and work to ensure that all areas benefit. We ensure that funding is distributed equitably across the four UK countries.

Working in Partnership, Working Strategically

  3.7  We believe that our funding will be more effective and projects more sustainable when organisations from across the voluntary, public and private sectors work together. Partnership working can also ensure that we make the best use of good practice and expertise. For example, in our out of school hours childcare programme we encourage applications from consortia of providers in order to ensure that childcare provision is expanded strategically across areas. All bidders must discuss their applications with local childcare partnerships, which also have a key role in auditing childcare needs, advising on priorities and supporting applicants.

  3.8  The Fund applies the partnership approach to its own programme development and management. We have a strong commitment to consultation. In the past two years we have held over 200 consultation events involving organisations from all sectors and parts of the United Kingdom. We ensure that we work strategically, complementing existing local and central government strategies and drawing on the experience of public bodies.

  For example:

    —  the Fund has worked very closely with Re:source (formerly the Library and Information Commission) in developing ICT training for librarians, the digitisation of learning materials and elements of the Community Access to Lifelong Learning programme;

    —  grant assessors ask Health Authorities and Local Authorities to comment on Healthy Living Centre applications;

    —  we work with local regeneration partnerships in England and Social Inclusion Partnerships in Scotland; and

    —  we are building links with regional bodies such as Regional Development Agencies and Regional Government Offices to ensure that our grant making reflects regional priorities and circumstances.

  3.9  We are also increasingly working in partnership with other Lottery Distributors to pool expertise, publicise programmes and improve accessibility for applicants. For example, we have developed a joint publication with the National Lottery Charities Board which will help applicants to decide which is the most appropriate source of funding for them. We have helped fund joint research into lottery support for former coalfield areas. We regularly share best practice in grant giving, project management and policy.


  3.10  All funding from the National Lottery is time limited and the sustainability of projects will always be a key issue. We are responding by working with our grant holders to help them plan for the long-term sustainability of their projects. For example, we allow tapering funding (more funding in year one than year five) and spending on fundraising to be built into proposals. Encouraging strong partnerships and partnership funding also increases the potential for sustainability.

  3.11  In addition, we are developing extensive evaluations of our programmes. If we can show that what we are currently funding works, projects are more likely to attract support in the future. Major evaluation contracts have been signed for the out of school hours learning and childcare programmes. For the healthy living centre initiative, we are in consultation with relevant departments, with the intention of appointing evaluators in the near future. We are working in partnership with Education Inspectorates in each country and the National Foundation for Educational Research to complete evaluations for the ICT and out of school hours learning programmes.

Innovative and Open Grant Making

  3.12  No organisation wants to waste time and resources submitting detailed applications which are unlikely to be successful. That is why the Fund focuses on clearly explaining grant criteria, has worked to keep its application processes simple and has used a two stage application process for a number of programmes. This gives applicants an initial response on an outline idea before detailed information is required. We also have an easy to contact telephone advice service that responded to over 21,000 enquiries during 1999-2000.

  3.13  The Fund has already met the majority of recommendations in the report of DCMS's Quality, Efficiency and Standards Team (QUEST) into the cost to applicants of making Lottery bids. We plan to build further on QUEST's ideas, including the development of our application forms and appeals procedures, which are praised in the report.

  3.14  We have pioneered new ways of making grants, so that those organisations with the greatest expertise make the grant decisions while the Fund ensures that strategic objectives are met. In order to achieve this, we have tried new ways of developing programmes. For example, we are delegating the management and, in some cases, decision making to national award partners under our green spaces and sustainable communities programme. These include The Countryside Agency, The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers and The Royal Society for Nature Conservation: organisations with a strong track record of delivering sustainable, community focused projects. In Scotland, decisions under this programme have been fully delegated to the Scottish Land Fund. Likewise, individual grant making under our out of school hours childcare programme is administered by the National Lottery Charities Board on our behalf.

  3.15  The Fund has pursued such innovations while maintaining low operating costs. In 1999-2000 our operating costs represented only 4.5 per cent of the money we received from the National Lottery Distribution Fund.

  3.16  We have also placed considerable emphasis on ensuring that our grant making is open and easy to understand. For example, all unsuccessful applicants receive feedback on award decisions, we publish the minutes of Board meetings and our corporate plan and we have held an open Board meeting.

Communicating our Contribution

  3.17  The Fund is very aware of its responsibility to inform the public about how their Lottery money is spent and the contribution that it makes to local and national life. All grant awards are announced in press releases and accompanied by detailed work with journalists, particularly from the regional and local press. All awards are publicised on our web site and we recently held a series of activity weeks around the United Kingdom to highlight the work of the Fund. These included events ranging from displays in shopping centres to briefings for professionals in the sectors in which we work.

  3.18  We believe that an important way in which to raise Lottery awareness is to act together with other Lottery Distributors. For example, we are committed to developing a joint web site portal with the other Distributors and will consider carefully QUEST's recommendation for a joint telephone hotline.

  3.19  The Fund is also aware that the benefits of our programmes will be multiplied by carefully evaluating our projects and sharing best practice. That is why we put such emphasis on widespread, robust research into which projects work and why. For example, our evaluation of the out of school hours initiatives will include detailed analysis of approximately 50 schemes across the country.


  4.1  We believe that our programmes and approach to grant making bring a distinctive and important contribution to the distribution of Lottery funding. The Fund has brought resources to communities across the United Kingdom, particularly those in greatest need. Our programmes have stimulated new ways of tackling health, educational and environmental challenges and new partnerships between voluntary, private and public organisations. We have developed a strategic approach to the delivery of programmes, which complements other funding streams and initiatives.

  4.2  Over the next year, we will be launching major new initiatives, investing heavily in the evaluation of projects, sharing best practice, and working with other Distributors to help support applicants and publicise the contribution made by Lottery money.

1   MORI Survey 16/6/2000. Back

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