Massive windfall from dormant assets must be shared equally across UK as soon as possible says leading third sector body
Forgotten financial assets worth upto £2bn are set to be distributed to charities across the UK.
And Scotland’s third sector has urged the UK Government to move fast and ensure it gets its “fair share” of the windfall, which could be a major boost for the sector in times of austerity.
A report just released by the Independent Dormant Assets Commission has identified a tranche of assets, including £715m from investments and wealth management, £550m from the pensions and insurance sector, £150m from securities, and £140m from banks and building societies that are kying unclaimed in accounts across the UK.
It is recommending that the current dormant asset scheme covering unused bank and building society accounts should be expanded to include these funds.
It means that Scotland’s charities and community groups could see around £200 million coming their way.
John Downie, director of public affairs at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), called for the potential windfall to be distributed by the Scottish Government in conjunction with the country’s third sector organisations to ensure the cash goes where it is most needed.
He said: “SCVO is pleased that progress is being made to release forgotten and unused assets to the tune of around £2bn to the third sector. Scottish charities are struggling during these times of austerity, so we want to see their fair share of the money allocated without delay.
“That’s why we’re calling for the funds to be handed over to the Scottish Government immediately.
“The government, together with Scotland’s charities, can then decide how best to use the windfall to relieve the financial pressure the sector is under. That way charities can step up the support they provide to the people in our society who need them most.”
Charities in the UK have already benefitted from dormant bank accounts to the tune of £750m. In Scotland, these funds are distributed through the Big Lottery Fund Scotland's Young Start Programme, which gives out around £9m a year.
SCVO’s sister organisation in England, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, also stressed transparency was needed to determine how the assets should be distributed.
Michael Birtwistle, senior policy officer at the NCVO, said: “What matters is making sure they're distributed in the best way, which means the government needs to talk to charities about where these new resources can make the biggest difference.”
Rob Wilson, the UK government’s civil society minister, said the money could help change millions of lives across the country by helping good causes rather than gathering dust in dormant accounts.
Scotland’s third sector is surviving not thriving during these times of austerity - John Downie
“The reason I set up the commission was to unearth new resources that would allow our charities and voluntary groups to become more sustainable and independent,” said Wilson.
“But crucially, also to deliver really important local services over the long term.”
The commission’s chairman, Nick O’Donohue, said the challenge was to use the cash in the best way possible.
He added: “With the support of the financial services sector, we believe it is possible to reunite many of these assets with their owners and, where this is not possible, to free up substantial incremental funds for good causes in the UK.”
Caroline Abrahams, Age UK's charity director, said: “There is no doubt that a funding boost would change lives by enabling charities like ours to deliver really important local services that make a big difference to people and the communities they live in.”