Lottery fund cut would be a sharp bodyblow to charities

Interestlink2web

Interest Link Borders provides a range of befriending services for people with learning disabilities

Andrew Findlay explains the impact of the Big Lottery Fund on the quality of life of people with learning disabilities in the Borders

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19th November 2015 by TFN Guest 1 Comment

Support from The Big Lottery Fund has been a huge factor in the growth and development of Interest Link Borders’ befriending projects over the last 15 years. It has enabled us to progress from supporting 20 adults with learning disabilities in Berwickshire to supporting 200 children, young people and adults with learning disabilities across the Scottish Borders.

Lottery funding gave us the opportunity to demonstrate to other funders the difference we make to the happiness and quality of life of people with learning disabilities, and their family carers. This enabled us to build up a broad range of funding sources and made us more viable in the longterm, enabling us to cope in the periods when we did not have lottery support.

We have been fortunate to recently secure a grant of £314,000 from the Big Lottery Fund which will provide around 50% of the costs of our new project for children and young people with learning disabilities. This will make them more confident individuals with improved mental wellbeing/happiness and lifeskills and more strongly connected with their communities. Their family carers’ wellbeing and ability to sustain their caring role will also be strengthened.  That the grant drawdown is flexible and can be spread over five years also greatly increases our security as an organisation.

Any reduction in the scale of BLF programmes would be a bodyblow sharply felt throughout Scotland

In addition to financial support, the development support provided by the fund (and the standards it requires) were instrumental in raising our standards of management and practice when we first looked to expand in 2001, and have kept us on our toes ever since. It also contributed to our standards and methods of evaluation, which have enabled us to build a strong evidence base for the impact of befriending.

The BLF has also been one of the drivers behind the steady diversification of our service model: increasing our age range to provide a whole-of-life service, introducing befriending groups in addition to classic 1-to-1 befriending, delivering our children and young people’s work through school-age volunteers, and introducing residential trips.     

I have no doubt that we would never have been able to grow and develop to the extent we have without the Big Lottery Fund’s support. I believe it is a central pillar in the third sector’s ability to play such a key role in providing the essential services and facilities that make up the rich tapestry of our social fabric. Its role is particularly vital at a time when statutory services are under such huge financial pressure. Any reduction in the scale of its programmes would be a bodyblow sharply felt throughout Scotland.

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