NAVCA urge caution before praising new grant standards

NAVCA has urged caution before rushing to praise the publication of new standards for grant making by the Cabinet Office. Whilst it supports the principle of published standards for grant giving, NAVCA has queried the haste with which the standards have welcomed in some quarters without the implications being fully understood.

NAVCA believe that the standards certainly improve on the original anti-lobbying clause but believe they fall-short of what charities and grant makers might expect. NAVCA has identified several areas of concern where the new standards will harm small charities and community groups.

  • The standards say that it is ‘expected that grant funding payment models will reflect need and avoid paying significant portions of funding up-front’. For smaller charities, often with limited funds, up-front payments are vital.
  • The proposed annual review of grants implies that long term grant agreements are undesirable when evidence suggests the stability created by longer term funding improves outcomes.
  • The robust grant agreements standard is an improvement on the lobbying clause but still appears to restrict activity that potentially improves decision making. The standards do not remove the ability to gag charities as it still bans “attempting to influence legislative or regulatory action” and in house lobbying.
  • The standards introduce training as mandatory for grant givers but do not provide any set training. An expectation that voluntary sector organisations will inform this training is missing. Likewise the new grants advice panel does not harness charity expertise.
  • There is no indication that the standards will be reviewed or that there is any process to do so.

Neil Cleeveley, Chief Executive of NAVCA, said;

“The lack of consultation sets a poor example. There would have been a huge benefit in testing out these ideas with charities, particularly smaller ones, to see how they work in practice. We think that the intentions behind the new standards are good but the reality is a bit of a muddle.”

“The key question that needs asking is will the standards tackle and ease the ‘chilling effect’ of the anti-lobbying clause? I am worried that the standards are worded in a way that means it is still possible for charities to be attacked for legitimate work to help people and communities have a say about their services.”