Charity lotteries raised an amazing £255 million last year, over £21 million a month, benefitting charities and communities across the country, from hospices and air ambulances, to museums, sports teams and community halls.
One such community to benefit is Handbridge in Chester, where a brand new community centre opened this summer to replace the old church hall linked to St Mary’s Church. Some of the costs of the new centre came from a £20,000 grant from the Postcode Community Trust, funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. I got a chance to visit last week, to see the new centre for myself and meet the team behind it. It is a fantastic resource and is already being used by a wide variety of local community groups of all ages – indeed when I was there the local yoga group was on.
As well as a number of flexible rooms for groups to use, there is also a kitchen and hub space which is the heart of the venue and allows people to mix with each other, find out what else is going on, or just pass the time of day. Ted Graham, from the organising committee, explained to me that it’s already proving a great way of tackling social isolation and loneliness, especially amongst the older generation.
This should be music to the ears of Tracey Crouch MP, who as the world’s first ever Minister for Loneliness, is leading the Government’s work in this area.
It was clear from my visit to Chester that this is money very well spent and will help a huge number of local groups. Unfortunately many local charities are missing out on available funding because of outdated statutory limits on fundraising by charity lotteries.
The players of People’s Postcode Lottery fund three local grant giving trusts, but these trusts now have to turn away four out of every five applications. Ironically this is not because of a lack of available funds raised by players, but because the legal limits on charity lotteries mean that these trusts are limited to how much funds they can bring in each year.
At present the annual fundraising limit for each charity lottery is £10 million, a level which has been fixed since 2005. Charity lotteries are also limited in the amount they can raise in any one draw, with the statutory limit set at £4 million.
Raising these limits will allow trusts like the Postcode Community Trust to fund many more of the applications they receive from local charities and community groups, helping a wide range of organisations across the country.
As well as being responsible for tackling loneliness, Minister Tracey Crouch is also Minister for Civil Society, and over the summer has been running a public consultation on updating these limits, so they are fit for purpose and can help charity lotteries do what they do best – raise funds for good causes.
As Ms Crouch considers the outcome of her consultation we encourage her to take action to raise the limits to a level which will future proof them for the decade to come and will allow organisations like the Postcode Community Trust to fund more local charity and community groups. As is clear from Handbridge Community Centre, by allowing more local charities to be funded she won’t just be helping local charities, but will also ensure that charity lotteries maximise their impact on her mission to tackle loneliness.