Medical charities able to seek lottery cash

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The Independent Online
Medical research charities will finally be able to apply for a share of lottery money - but not until next spring, the National Lottery Charities Board said yesterday.

The lottery distribution body, which has yet to make a payment to charity in more than a year of operation, will make the official announcement today.

It is hoping the concession will defuse the row fuelled by the powerful medical charities over their exclusion from the board's first round of grants, to be announced next month. These are restricted to organisations that help the poor.

The board will also reveal today that its next round of grants - to open for applications in late November - are also to be confined to charities working with the poor, especially those which helping young people find jobs, avoid crime and overcome drug addiction.

The announcements are aimed at deflecting the unremitting criticism that has dogged the board since it started work at the end of last year. Complaints have centred on the perceived exclusion of medical charities, its slowness in making grants and the revelation that it would have spent more than pounds 5m on running costs before it made its first pay-out.

Its delay in spending its estimated pounds 300m income this year has particularly angered the other lottery distribution bodies dedicated to sport, heritage and the arts. They had hoped for early charity grants to deflect controversy over the multi-million pound pay-outs for the Royal Opera House and the Churchill archive.

But it appears the board's decision to award its third round of grants next year to charities working in the health, disability and care sectors may not benefit the big medical charities.

The board has privately indicated that it does not want to fund large- scale research projects or "Nobel prize winners". Instead, funding will be directed at charities working on practical research whose effects can be seen quickly, and on obscure diseases that fail to attract much public sympathy.

The board, which has chosen to nominate themes for each grant round to prevent a deluge of applications, has also finalised its other charity targets.

Next spring it will give money to UK charities working abroad. Next summer grants will be centred on education, training and enterprise, and in winter next year the theme will be "improving people's living environment". In spring 1997 the theme will be "fostering community involvement".

A survey of voluntary organisations this year revealed that the five causes that charities most wanted to see benefit from lottery money were: the social and physical environment; children; the community; disabilities; and poverty.