Youth groups have been invited to bid for a share of Pounds 150 million in lottery cash as part of a new grants programme announced yesterday by the National Lottery Charities Board for England.
Unveiling the themes intended to give "focus and direction" to the distribution of the lottery money, the board's director, Janet Paraskeva, concentrated on the problems faced by young people, such as violence, homelessness, drug abuse and unemployment. "The challenge they face is to turn these problems into opportunities," she said. "Voluntary youth groups throughout the country will, I am sure, be coming up with imaginative schemes to help young people do just that ... Personally I am very pleased that our next programme focuses on youth issues."
Until she was invited to direct the Lottery Charities Board in June, Janet Paraskeva was director of the National Youth Agency, the government body that administers and distributes funding for youth work through local authorities. As director she acquired a reputation for outspoken and determined lobbying on youth issues, somewhat to the discomfiture of the Government. For the six months before her departure, the NYA's future was in doubt, but it was reprieved in June.
Its acting director, Mary Durkin, said she welcomed the announcement of lottery cash for voluntary groups, "provided it is not seen as a replacement for statutory funding". She said that the NYA will be organising seminars to advise youth groups on how to apply for the money.
The board says it will look favourably on applications which, for example, promote good health, offer financial advice, give young people "a realistic chance to become economically self-sufficient", and on those that run activities to help young people avoid crime, find housing, cope with leaving care or with disability.
The board says it does not fund activities which would otherwise be paid for by the Government. Any group set up for "charitable , philanthropic or benevolent purposes" can apply, so the group does not have to be a registered charity.
However, a spokesman for the Association of Metropolitan Authorities suggested that it could be difficult to distinguish between local authority-funded and voluntary-funded groups, because so many were supported by both. "Also, there is no limit to the amount the authority could expand its youth service, so you could argue that a lot of groups 'would otherwise be funded by the Government'. "
The Association of County Councils said that youth work was a Cinderella service - "like all discretionary services, it is under the hammer." Earlier this year, a TES survey found that Pounds 1 million had been cut from the youth budget in 1995 by 11 county councils alone.
Application packs for youth groups are available from November 27 (0345 919191); the deadline is February 16, 1996.