Demand exceeds lottery pay-outs

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Thousands of voluntary groups are likely to be disappointed with pay- outs from the National Lottery because demand for grants has significantly outstripped the money available.

Provisional figures released yesterday by the charities board, responsible for distributing a fifth of the money raised by the lottery, suggests that charities have made grant applications requesting in excess of pounds 1bn.

Of the 6,150 applications processed from a total of 11,000, pounds 865m has been requested. The board expects to distribute about pounds 230m.

David Sieff, chairman of the charities board and a director of Marks & Spencer, said the flood of applications vindicated the decision to restrict grants to causes helping the poor. The decision has angered animal welfare and medical research charities who claim they have lost donations to the lottery.

"Right from the start, the board felt that it was important to give a focus to our grant-making. Initiatives helping those in poverty were considered to be a very high priority by the voluntary sector," Mr Sieff said.

He attracted anger from deaf people last week when he said he was wary of giving too much money to causes with a strong emotional appeal: "Personally, I'm terribly kind to the blind, but I'm extremely impatient with the deaf. The deaf don't have the same emotive appeal."

The charities board could not say whether any organisations representing the deaf had made grant applications. Applicants for funds include groups working with children and young people, families, the elderly, the disabled, and ethnic minorities, as well as charities for health, recreation, education and self-help. The average request is for pounds 140,000.

Medical and animal welfare charities continued to call for a reassessment of the award criteria. The British Medical Association criticised the exclusion of medical research charities. In many cases the problems of poverty and disease "go hand in hand," a spokesman said.