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LETTER: Oxfam results and the Lottery

From Mr David Bryer

Sir: David Rigg of Camelot (Letters, 8 November) uses the fact that Oxfam has seen an increase in income from donations and appeals to bolster his argument that any negative effect of the National Lottery upon charitable giving may have been exaggerated.

We are very pleased that Oxfam's total income increased in the last financial year (although donations did not increase by 54 per cent as Mr Rigg says, but by a rather more modest 20 per cent over 12 months). However, in many ways it was an exceptional year and, in our opinion, nothing to do with the National Lottery.

The increase was largely due to public generosity in funding Oxfam's emergency humanitarian work during the crisis in Rwanda. Should such a relatively exceptional disaster occur again, we trust that the British public would respond generously once more. But to determine the effects of the National Lottery on public giving, one should look not at disaster appeals for the evidence, but rather at the pattern of day-to-day giving.

In this regard it is of considerable concern to us that the public believes that a lot more money goes to charities from the National Lottery than really does (only 5.6p in the pound actually goes to charity). Given this misconception, it seems at least possible that some money which would regularly have been given to charity is now being spent on lottery tickets.

The jury is still out on the National Lottery. More may be known when charities announce their results for this financial year (which ends in April or May 1996). What is also needed is more solid research. In the meantime, plucking figures out of the air and failing to put them into their proper context does not further a rational debate on the pros and cons of the National Lottery.

Yours faithfully,

David Bryer




9 November