Network of Regional Youth Work Units England blog

A Network of Regional Youth Work Units, in England, collaborating across regions to promote good youth work and young people’s voices.

Big Lottery Fund – your voice, our vision?

learning south westThe South West RYWU is saying goodbye this week to our brilliant Voluntary Sector Development Worker, Fiona Phur after 6 ½ years, most of it paid for by the Big Lottery Fund’s BASIS fund which supported voluntary sector voice and infrastructure activities.

The BLF funding has been a huge benefit both to our organisation and to the hundreds of voluntary youth organisations we have worked with to provide training, advice, guidance and practical support.

At a time when the youth work sector in the region has had to deal with funding cuts of more than 50%, the capacity, knowledge and skills we’ve been able to generate as a result of our BASIS project has enabled many organisations to adapt and transform to meet astonishing challenges, and has helped individual youth workers, volunteers and managers to survive and thrive. It’s also helped quite a few on the way to alternative careers as their roles have been made redundant due to these ‘disproportionate’ cuts in young people’s services. So the very best of wishes to Fiona who has played such an important role in keeping the show on the road, and we hope that her new ‘portfolio career’ is a success – if anyone can make it work, it will be you!

A new direction?

The ending of our Lottery funding and the difficulty in finding any source of funding not aimed directly at the most vulnerable individuals has got me thinking about the direction for Big Lottery Fund, and my ponderings have coincided with BLF’s new ‘conversation’ about the future for their funds. Your Voice, Our Vision gives us all a chance to have a say about where BLF should be prioritising over the next phase of its development, and I’m making regular visits to post “and another thing…” as they occur to me.

your voice our visionI’m worried that BLF funds are more and more closely tied to areas the government regards as priorities, with very specific aims and outcomes. In the last few months I’ve come across Lottery funds being used to pump prime a potential social investment bond and collaboration between four local authorities; being offered as matched funding for European Social Fund projects (admittedly to enable VCS organisations to participate) and I’ve also had the fun of trying to navigate the complexities of the Big Assist marketplace, which is establishing a market amongst voluntary sector infrastructure organisations, without any obvious benefit to the delivery organisations they support or represent. The concepts of local good causes and voluntary effort seem a long way removed from current priorities.

Meanwhile, the voluntary youth sector is struggling to pay its staff and its bills, and young people who are acknowledged as the group worst hit by the post-recession austerity are left without local opportunities and services because there is no designated BLF programme for work with young people. I was at a conference recently where in answer to a question on this issue, a speaker from BLF explained that they were not allowed to pick up funding for statutory responsibilities that public bodies used to provide. But that hardly covers youth work, which has always had a mixed economy of funding sources and providers, and it seems more than unfair that the major voluntary sector funder looks the other way as local authorities withdraw their funding.

Funding wish list

So what would I like to see? My wish list includes:

  • A substantial designated BLF programme aimed at working with young people in their communities – even better if it had a strand about enabling young people to have a voice
  • Three year projects to be the norm or even the minimum: we know that the last three years of our six year project achieved a lot more than the early years
  • Less alignment of Lottery funds with government priorities – they’re not always right, they change all the time and they leave huge gaps between them
  • Recognition of the importance of stable and strong infrastructure organisations in ensuring the voluntary sector has access to the right support when and where it is needed – and acknowledgement that core costs and staffing exist for the voluntary sector just as they do in business, and are essential in making organisations effective

Does that seem unreasonable? Think about it as you buy your Euro-millions Rollover tickets – if you want your money to be making a difference to young people’s lives, go to the Your Voice Our Vision website and add your tuppence worth!


Gill Millar – RYWU at Learning South West



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This entry was posted on May 16, 2014 by in Regional Youth Work Unit at Learning South West and tagged , , .
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