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Session 2000-01
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Delegated Legislation Committee Debates

Draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) Order 2001

Eleventh Standing Committee

on Delegated Legislation

Wednesday 21 March 2001

[Mr. Bowen Wells in the Chair]

Draft New Opportunities Fund

(Specification of Initiatives) Order 2001

4.30 pm

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) Order 2001.

The purpose of the order is to specify seven new initiatives that will be funded by the national lottery through the new opportunities fund. In 1997, when the Government proposed introducing a sixth good cause for health, education and the environment, there was widespread public support for targeting lottery funding in those areas. Since then, the new opportunities fund has made a real difference to people's lives: £1.5 billion has already been committed and £300 million is helping to create a network of healthy living centres. It is important to point out that there is no blueprint for those centres. The fund is looking for projects that promote good health in its broadest sense, and which help people of all ages to improve their well-being and get the most out of life. Some £200 million is providing good quality, affordable and accessible out-of-school-hours child care, and the programme has been, and continues to be, immensely successful and popular.

Moreover, £205 million is funding out-of-school-hours learning. Such projects may include music, sport, art, drama, key skills assistance and voluntary activities. We propose to allocate a further £25.5 million to that programme to fund the important work of school sports co-ordinators and their equivalents across the UK in working with all schools in a partnership area, and in organising competitive sports, after-school and weekend activities, outdoor adventure activities, coaching opportunities for talented youngsters, and fully inclusive sports programmes for young people with disabilities.

In June 1999, we announced that £60 million would be made available through Sport England and the new opportunities fund to establish and support school sports co-ordinators. The original target was to establish 600 co-ordinators, but in recognition of their enormous potential to revive extra-curricular school sport, and to enable more children to experience the fun, challenge and health benefits of a full programme of physical education and sporting activity, that target has since risen to 1,000 co-ordinators by 2004. From next year, investment of £60 million from Exchequer funding will match lottery funding for the programme, which will now total £120 million.

Some £50 million is available for digitising of content with a learning focus, and for cultural enrichment, citizenship and re-skilling. A further £250 million has provided information and communication technology training for teachers and librarians. It has been a successful and worthwhile programme, but concern has been expressed that home and hospital tuition service teachers have not been eligible to apply. We shall therefore allocate a further £1 million to extend the programme to cover teachers employed by local education authorities to provide education for pupils at home or in hospital.

Some £150 million is helping to improve cancer prevention, detection, treatment and care. The programme is already making a great contribution to the fight against cancer, and we propose to extend this approach to cover the other major killer diseases. Some £125 million is funding green spaces and sustainable communities, and we intend to complement this important programme with a further programme of environmental renewal. Finally, £200 million is supporting development of community access to lifelong learning.

I hope you will agree, Mr. Wells, that that already forms an impressive work programme. When the Millennium Commission's share of lottery proceeds transfers to the new opportunities fund in August this year, the fund will receive approximately one third of all lottery proceeds—amounting to about £500 million a year. That is why in November last year we sought views on a range of new initiatives for using that money by issuing the consultation paper, ``New Opportunities from the Lottery''. Some 430 responses were received from across the UK, the overwhelming majority of which supported the proposed initiatives. Our draft directions for the new opportunities fund, which set the framework for the initiatives and were made available to hon. Members last week, benefited from the useful comments made during the consultation.

Many broad themes arose from that consultation. Additionality was a recurrent theme and respondents wanted assurances that initiatives funded by the new opportunities fund would be additional to, and not substitutes for, Government spending. I confirm that we have adhered closely to that principle. Some people believe that health, education and the environment are such important areas that only the Government should fund them. However, as my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary said to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, the key test is not whether the facilities and services funded by the lottery could have been funded by the Exchequer, but whether they would have been. The new opportunities fund allows us to do more than we could do otherwise, just as the voluntary sector and local fundraising provide invaluable support in many important areas.

There was understandable concern that the initiatives should be managed as quickly and efficiency as possible. So far, the new opportunities fund has made a good job of delivering a wide range of initiatives, but inevitably its processes take time. I am sure that it will rise to the challenge of getting the next tranche of programmes up and running as soon as it can, and we will consider ways of helping it to do that. Through careful strategic planning, we will ask the new opportunities fund to make clear which groups or areas are the intended beneficiaries of a particular programme, avoiding the need for formal application procedures. We will consider whether there is a need to change the financial directions to reflect that.

Those who responded to the consultation paper were keen to see flexibility in the initiatives that could respond to the particular needs of different parts of the UK. We have worked closely with the devolved Administrations to develop those initiatives and I am confident that the draft policy directions, which have been agreed with them, reflect their different circumstances and priorities in a broad UK framework.

The first proposal concerns physical education and sport in schools. Sport plays an important role in motivating young people to aim high. Increasing evidence shows that young people who are involved in good quality sporting activities do better academically and are less likely to get mixed up in criminal, antisocial activities such as drug abuse. Some £750 million for sport in schools will help to bring about a step change in the provision of sports facilities for young people and the wider communities in which they live. The bedrock of a future successful sporting nation must be based in schools. Priority will be given to areas of urban and rural deprivation, but all LEAs will benefit.

Innovation will be encouraged. For example, groups of local schools could share facilities and thus make them available to the wider community and attract partnership funding. One consequence of our specialist sports colleges is that schools are working in partnership with not only secondary schools, but primary schools in their area. We do not want to prescribe specific methods because each community and constituency is different and this could be an opportunity for doing things differently.

A key element of the proposal is that we want trained people to run the facilities. Buildings and facilities are important, but if teachers and coaches are not involved with those young people and on hand to officiate and run sporting occasions, coaching sessions and offer their wide coaching experiences, a huge amount will be lost from the effort. Up to £50 million will be provided to support the building or refurbishing of outdoor adventure facilities, especially where that would benefit young people who do not have ready access to such facilities.

A total of £44 million will be provided to allow young people to take part in outdoor adventure programmes and other challenging activities. Secondary school leavers who have no idea of what to do at the end of compulsory schooling are far more likely to slip into long-term unemployment. We want to improve their self-confidence and increase the numbers who go into further education, training or a job with training.

More than £213 million will be made available to boost the fight against heart disease and stroke, and to provide extra funding for the existing initiative to beat cancer. The initiative will help to improve diagnosis and treatment, which are often funded through appeals and charitable donations, leading to inequalities in provision across the country. It will help to improve cardiac rehabilitation and palliative care by improving access to safe, modern and convenient facilities. It will also take effective action to prevent strokes and cancer by focusing on smoking cessation, increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity. Sport is therefore important in all these areas.

The palliative care programme for adults and children with life-threatening and chronic illnesses will build on the successful ``Living with Cancer'' programme by reducing the current inequity of provision. It will support more patients, families and carers wishing to stay in their own homes and communities, which was regarded as especially important in the consultation exercise. It will also provide support for carers during bereavement.

Children's hospices will also be eligible for support. Funding will not be restricted to new projects, which was thought to be too narrow a scope. The new opportunities fund will be able to sustain existing good-quality provision, which requires specific and limited intervention to maintain services or develop. However, that is not the same as core funding. A clear indication of long-term sustainability will be required for such awards to be made. A sum of £84 million will be available for the initiative. That will be in addition to the settlement for health services agreed within the comprehensive spending review, and will add to, rather than substitute for, Exchequer spending.

Child care plays a crucial part in this country's economic and social success, and in building stronger communities. It supports people in work, training and education, especially women who, because of a lack of child care, often find such opportunities denied to them. The existing child care initiative meets demand. However, targeting child care development in deprived areas is especially important, because it helps provide opportunities for people in those communities. A further £198.5 million for child care will provide funding for capital projects that benefit nought to three-year-olds in socially excluded communities, areas of deprivation and areas where such opportunities and facilities do not currently exist. It will also provide further support for child care projects, primarily through extending the support provided under the existing programme in communities in which fewer parents are initially able to pay the full cost of child care. That range of help and support should make a real difference in those areas where, as all hon. Members know, facilities are in great need of being strengthened, if they are there at all.


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