The social action fund exists to scale up projects that have proved their ability to inspire people to take social action. We recently announced the first investments for the fund, which are worth £9.4 million and have generated a further £9 million in match funding. We believe that those combined investments will generate more than 200,000 volunteering opportunities.
A registered charity in my constituency, Fourtwelve Ministries, which runs the Carpenter’s Arms residential rehabilitation centre and a food parcel handout service, was recently turned down for funding by the Social Investment Business, which administers the social action fund. One of the reasons given was that it was part of a Christian charity. Can the Minister assure me that the Government fully recognise the role played by Christian groups in delivering social action projects?
Yes, I can, but I should clarify one point. The charity was not turned down for the social action fund; it was turned down for another fund.
We all know from our constituencies that many churches and faith groups are very active in generating opportunities for people to become involved and give time to help others, and the social action fund is open to bids from faith groups that make social action possible. In the first round we invested in the Cathedral Archer Project, a Christian group in Sheffield that is enabling homeless people to volunteer to help other homeless people.
A recent report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations showed that, according to the Government’s own figures, charities face cuts of over £900 million. Does the Minister agree that the £20 million managed by the social action fund is a drop in the ocean in comparison with what charities need?
Let me make two points. First, the sector would have faced cuts under any Administration, as the leader of the Labour party has made clear. Secondly, the £20 million social action fund exists to do something very specific. Its purpose is to scale up successful, proven projects in order to inspire social action.