Small charities are vital to the UK’s funding for international development. Last July, the small charities challenge fund was launched to support the work of small, UK-based charities in international development. The fund will enable these organisations to increase the reach and impact of their projects.
Scottish Borders makes a significant contribution to the UK’s overseas aid effort, often in the form of fundraising or volunteering for larger national charities. Local grassroots organisations can play a crucial role in some of the world’s poorest countries, but applying for funding can be challenging, and some worthy organisations might not be aware of opportunities such as the small charities challenge fund. Will the Minister reassure me that the Department is doing all it can to promote these funds and make applying for them as easy as possible?
I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question. I agree that we need and have tried to make the process as simple and streamlined as possible. We have publicised it through a range of different regional events and—importantly—written to every Member of Parliament, because excellent local MPs such as my hon. Friend can publicise these opportunities to the great grassroots charities.
During the Rohingya crisis, the Rochdale Council of Mosques, with its local Bangladeshi roots, made a material difference to our ability to convey aid to the area quickly. Could that be built into the framework for dealing with future disasters and emergencies?
Indeed, and I am grateful for the work that was done in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to raise money during that appalling crisis. As he will know, it is possible to secure match funding from the Department when local communities are able to do such an impressive amount of fundraising.
I draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
Given that larger charities are necessarily more bureaucratic, and given that the UK aid grant scheme was set up to help smaller charities, are Ministers satisfied that the due diligence processes for applications from smaller charities are entirely appropriate and cost-effective?
We do carry out due diligence for small charities, and we have received more than 100 applications to the Small Charities Challenge Fund. The cut-off in relation to size is an annual income of £250,000. I look forward to the announcement of the results of the first round of applications.
Will small charities that are particularly innovative in sub-Saharan Africa, providing clean drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people there, be able to avail themselves of the fund, and will the Minister actively promote it to them?
They will indeed be able to avail themselves of the fund, provided that their annual income is less than £250,000 and provided that they are working in one of the 50 poorest countries in the world. Larger charities can apply to other sources of funding.
The Secretary of State may talk up the £4 million Small Charities Challenge Fund, but the truth is that the Government are failing international charities and the people whom they serve. Civil society funding is being squeezed, the programme partnership arrangements and flexible funding have been scrapped, and the right to speak out has been restricted under the draconian Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. What plan has the Secretary of State to reverse that?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment: we look forward greatly to working with her. We are proud of our track record on the 0.7% commitment, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will announce her strategic priorities shortly.