Sector News

National Lottery Awards for All is changing!

The National Lottery’s flagship funding programme, National Lottery Awards For All, is changing – supporting the ambition to turbocharge funding for grassroots community projects across the UK.

You can now:

  • Apply for funding between £300 and £20,000 to support your project, an increase from the previous £10,000 per year
  • Get your project funded for up to two years rather than one.

These changes have doubled the amount you can apply for and how long they will fund your project.

These changes to National Lottery Awards for All deliver the promise and ambition of the Lottery’s new strategy, This marks the biggest change to National Lottery funding for a generation.

Reimagining National Lottery Awards for All
Read more about these changes to Awards for All in this blog from David Knott, Chief Executive Officer at the National Lottery Community Fund.

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Tipping Point: The Cost of Living Crisis

Tipping Point, the latest report by VCS Emergencies Partnership, describes some of the ways the voluntary and community sector (VCS) has been responding to the challenge of the cost of living crisis, focusing on the early part of 2023.

It draws out insights, knowledge and practical ideas to help inform future preparedness and response to an ongoing crisis that will escalate again as winter approaches.

Read more and download the report from the VCS Emergencies Partnership website.


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Social Media Guidance for Charities

An update on the new guidance on social media produced by the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has released new guidance on the use of social media for charities which provides a very useful tool for trustees.

The Charity Commission recognises that social media has become a powerful way for many charities to promote their work, engage their supporters and campaign for change. The public is also using social media to engage with or debate the work of charities.

However, the Charity Commission’s casework suggests that some trustees have limited oversight of their charities’ use of social media compared to other aspects of their communication and engagement strategy. This might be due to a lack of confidence or understanding, or because uptake of social media has developed through staff or volunteers.

The Charity Commission understands that whilst it is reasonable for trustees to delegate the day-to-day operations of social media, it is important that there is an appropriate shared understanding of the charity’s use of social media and the risks it can bring.

The aim of the guidance is to help trustees improve this understanding, and to encourage charities to adopt a policy on social media as a means of setting their charity’s approach.

The main takeaway from the guidance is that whilst social media can be very useful, it also presents risks as its fast pace can increase the risk of posting content that is inappropriate or, in extreme circumstances, breaches the law and removing or deleting content can be difficult.

As a result, if your charity uses social media, you should ensure that you:

  • adopt a social media policy so that you have internal controls in place that are appropriate, proportionate and are clear to everyone using social media;
  • ensure you use social media only to help you achieve your charity’s purpose(what your charity was set up to do) and in a way that is in your charity’s best interests;
  • comply with relevant laws and regulations;
  • ensure any campaigning or political activity that you do on social media complies with the rules on political activity and campaigning; and
  • ensure your processes help you keep people safe online.

View the Charity Commission Guidance here.

Any further queries? VODA can offer support, advice and training to your VCSE group. Please contact VODA’s Core Services Team by telephone on 0191 643 2626 or by email on [email protected].

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Embedding the VCSE sector in Integrated Care Systems

NAVCA has announced (25/09/23) the publication of a new set of resources for the VCSE around embedding the sector in Integrated Care Systems.

The aim of these resources is to help VCSE organisations work effectively with ICSs to create a holistic approach to health and wellbeing, ensuring that community concerns are identified and acted upon through effective VCSE representation.

The resource is split into two pages.

Page one covers:

  • Understanding the value of the VCSE sector
  • Building business cases for VCSE alliances
  • Alliance structures
  • Job and role descriptions
  • Embedding the VCSE as an equal partner in ICS governance and decision making
  • partnership agreements,
  • alliance vision, values and mission statements

Page two covers

  • representation roles
  • sustainable investment for VCSE Alliances
  • harnessing data and intelligence
  • working with VCSE sector to address wider determinants of health

Read more about these new resources and the importance of the VCSE Sector in integrated care in this NAVCA blog.

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Organisational Health Checks: A How-to Guide

Health checks are an increasingly accepted way of identifying how your organisation really works and whilst primarily aimed at smaller organisations they can be used as a starting point for larger organisations. 

A health check for your organisation is like an MOT for your car. It enables you to look at all the different elements within your organisation and to check that they are working properly and running smoothly. Like an MOT an annual health check makes sure your organisation is firing on all cylinders.   

Carrying out a health check will enable your trustees to identify how your organisation really works; what is working well and what areas may need further support so that the organisation can function more effectively.  

Changing legislation, policies, procedures and guidance can result in the need to update documentation and practices.  Through regular monitoring and evaluating you can ensure your organisation is in good health. 

We have designed a Health Check Tool, attached here for organisations to help you assess what your organisation is doing well and any areas for improvement. VODA can help you to complete the check and our team are available to discuss how best to support your group’s development. 

Any further queries? VODA can offer support, advice and training to your VCSE group. Please contact VODA’s Core Services Team by telephone on 0191 643 2626 or by email on [email protected] 

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Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service

The Ministry of Justice has just launched a new service to help those at risk of losing their homes called the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service.

The service provides:

  • Early legal advice (legal help) on housing, debt and welfare benefits issues to those at risk of possession proceedings and loss of their home; and
  • On the day emergency advice and representation at court to those with a listed possession hearing

Individuals who require the above service do not need to meet legal aid financial eligibility rules as the service is means free, but they will be required to show evidence that they are at risk of losing of their home.

A total of 101 HLPAS contracts have been awarded to legal aid housing providers and most began on 1 August 2023. A small number of contracts started on the 1 September 2023.

A list of contract holders can be found at Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service (HLPAS) on the website.

In North Tyneside, Hadaway and Hadaway Solicitors LLP (58 Howard Street, North Shields, Tyne and Wear, NE30 1AL) is the local provider of this service.

Individuals who may require assistance under the Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service can be referred to the above law firm or a contract holder on the above list or directed to Legal aid for possession proceedings – website. For more information, please see Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service launch.

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Boardroom behaviour: a recipe for success

How your board works together as a group is vital and improving this is often a key development need for boards. Some of the things that you can do to help to ensure ideal behaviour in meetings include:

  • Effective chairing: A chair should spend their time listening, moving the discussion on, and then summarising. At the end of each agenda item the chair should ensure that everyone is clear about the outcome reached. A good chair will encourage everyone to have some input.
  • Making sure that the meeting does not get bogged down in formalities: Whilst meetings should be conducted in an orderly way, there is no need for overly formal procedures. It is not necessary for every issue under discussion to be proposed and seconded, or to be put to a formal vote. Sometimes, voting will need to be by show of hands, especially where there is a different of opinion, but in many scenarios, decisions are reached by consensus, with the chair summarising the agreed position.
  • Adopting some meeting protocols: These could include not participating in peripheral conversations during the main meeting; limiting use of telephones, tablets and computers; and, of course, ensuring that there is no aggressive, or rude behaviour.
  • Ensuring that trustees can meet socially: This could just be during refreshment breaks at the meeting itself. This helps to address conflicts and gives opportunities for matters to be discussed appropriately outside the meeting.
  • Mix things up with different styles of board meetings: Not all meetings need to be held in the same formal way. Sometimes, it can be useful to create opportunities to think aloud and for creative thinking (e.g. brainstorms and small group working).

Any further queries? VODA can offer support, advice and training to your VCSE group. Please contact VODA’s Core Services Team by telephone on 0191 643 2626 or by email on [email protected].

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The Charity Commission 2023 trustee and public trust annual research

The Charity Commission undertakes annual research which relates closely to their statutory objectives, including increasing public trust and confidence in charities, promoting compliance by charity trustees with their legal obligations and enhancing the accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the wider public.

The 2023 research has confirmed the following key findings:

  • Public Trust: Charities continue to be well regarded and highly trusted, ranking second only to doctors. The research shows that the public are more likely to trust charities that are small, local or where they feel a personal connection to the cause. Charity registration also provides further reassurance to the public.
  • Trustee’s Role: Trustees continue to feel confident that they understand what the public expects of them. Both Trustees and the public generally feel that charities should avoid excessive risk and focus on their core purposes when deciding how to spend funds. Equally, the public feels charities should not be so cautious that they end up simply accumulating money.
  • Charity Commission function: In relation to the Charity Commission’s regulatory function, 81% of trustees who have been in contact with the Commission feel they have been treated fairly. 95% of Trustees are also confident that the Commission will deal appropriately with any wrongdoing. The awareness by Trustees of the Commission’s 5-minute guides has also increased. You can view these guides here or in the Advice & Guidance page on VODA’s website.

Any further queries? VODA can offer support, advice and training to your VCSE group. Please contact VODA’s Core Services Team by telephone on 0191 643 2626 or by email on [email protected].

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Restructuring advisors say charity sector facing a challenging 2023

The number of charities in financial difficulty is expected to rise this year as a result of the increasing economic challenges facing the sector.

This is the view of a North East restructuring expert, Chris Ferguson, who is Head of Recovery & Insolvency at RMT Accountants & Business Advisors based in Gosforth, Newcastle.

His advice follows the publication of official statistics that showed there were over 22,000 corporate insolvencies across England and Wales during 2022. This represented a 60% increase on corporate insolvencies in 2021 and a 75% rise on insolvency cases registered in 2020.

The charity sector has been particularly affected. With charity revenues especially susceptible to turbulent economic conditions, the reduction in disposable incomes from high inflation levels and rising interest rates has meant that levels of charitable donations have continued to decline. Trustees are therefore being warned that a significant rise in charities in financial difficulty is likely in the coming year.

Research undertaken by the Charities Aid Foundation has shown that more than half of charities surveyed say they are worried about their ability to survive due to the rising cost of living. This has climbed from just over a third (35%) in the six months since April 2022. Around half (51%) of charities are using their reserves to cover their core costs.

And CAF research shows that falling income, rising operating costs and soaring demand for support will continue to place more pressure on the charity sector in 2023.

Chris Ferguson warns that trustees need to urgently focus their attention on access to accurate financial information to ensure they are prepared for the challenging economic conditions ahead.

He says: “Trustees must be continuously focused on monitoring and forecasting their income and expenditure for the year ahead. Forecasting income can be particularly challenging, with many charities relying on voluntary donations, legacy gifts and grant income to continue to operate. But ensuring that trustees have full visibility over a charity’s financial position, to the extent possible, will help ensure that they are protecting both the charities themselves and are complying with their own legal duties.”

Trustees need to recognise their own responsibilities where charities find themselves in financial difficulty. Ferguson warns: “Many trustees are volunteers giving up their own time to help provide support and guidance to charitable organisations. However, this does not absolve them from their legal obligations to act with a duty of care, or in the interests of creditors where the charity is in some form of financial distress. The ramifications of not doing so can have personal consequences for trustees, which is generally not what they envisaged when agreeing to take on a voluntary role.”

Trustees are advised that some of the key warning signs of distress may include:

  • Minimal cash reserves or charities regularly at their overdraft limit
  • Reducing profitability or the charity is running at a deficit
  • Being unable to meet loan repayments
  • Increasing use of unsecured loans
  • Arrears with creditors and CCJ’s
  • Arrears or payment plans with HMRC

Where Trustees believe that a charity is in financial difficulty, they should seek immediate professional advice. “We continue to advise a number of charities with financial issues. Our advice would be that seeking support as early as possible widens the possible options available to help and significantly improves the chances of implementing a successful restructuring or turnaround of the organisation.”

“It will also help to ensure that trustees are complying with their own fiduciary duties as representatives of charities. .”

Any trustees that require a free initial discussion can contact Chris Ferguson on 0191 256 9500 or by email at [email protected] or Chris Wray on 0191 256 9500 or by email at [email protected].


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Raising awareness of Usher Syndrome

Jo Milne, founder and Chair of UK Charity Cure Usher has teamed up with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to create an educational film which will help to raise awareness about the condition both within the NHS and the wider public.

The film, which gives viewers an insight into what life is like for Jo as well as hearing from medical professionals, was produced by Northumbria Healthcare’s charity, Bright, with funding from NHS Charities Together.

Cure Usher focuses primarily on supporting people with Usher syndrome and those with combined hearing and sight loss. They play a positive role in developing and embedding awareness campaigns across all genres, including schools, the NHS and the wider public and raising funding to support research into finding a cure.

Jo Milne, who has Usher Syndrome, has been raising awareness and campaigning for over 20 years: “I’m delighted to share this film with you, working with Northumbria NHS Healthcare Trust has been a valuable first step to raise awareness and I hope the wider community follow this example.”

View the video on YouTube.

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