The UK has scrapped three rounds of grants to small international development charities, prompting fury that it has wiped out funding for 42 projects around the world to save “less than the [£2.6m] cost of the Downing Street press room”.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) told charities last week that rounds six, seven and eight of the Small Charities Challenge Fund (SCCF) would not go ahead because of aid cuts, cancelling in total about £2.1m of funds earmarked for new and future programmes, including many that had been approved.
“The cruelty of these cuts cannot be overstated. For less than the cost of the Downing Street press room, small UK charities would have delivered more than 40 transformative projects to the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Jess Price, a director at Health Improvement Project Zanzibar. “Instead of delivering this critical work, we are now trying to recoup losses and rebuild local trust.”
The charity, one of 1,500 members of the Small International Development Charities Network (SIDCN), was planning to use an approved £50,000 grant to build an A&E department and train 12 staff in a rural hospital in Zanzibar, a project it said would give 220,000 people access to life-saving emergency services.
Other projects due to receive SCCF grants include programmes to provide basic skills for 11,000 child domestic workers in Bangladesh, teach young pregnant women in Sierra Leone, and support girls living on the streets in Uganda.
Ruth Patil, operations manager at Carers Worldwide, said the cancellation of funding for its approved helpline for 2,000 family carers of children with disabilities in remote Nepal was “undoing years of good work in the community”.
“Nepal is about to go into another lockdown and instead of supporting people who are more isolated than ever, we are breaking our promises,” she said.
Charities said FCDO officials told them on 30 April that agreements had been cancelled, including the Community Partnerships fund, UK Aid Connect, UK Aid Direct impact grants, and the UK Partnerships for Health Systems programmes. Some active grants were halted and given 90 days to close, they said.
The SIDCN said applications for SCCF grants were still being accepted a month ago and a huge amount of work would be wasted during a pandemic that had already devastated the budgets of small charities. It is calling on the government to commit to a £50m package of support.
Neil Heslop, the chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, said: “Small UK charities stepped up brilliantly to support British values at home and abroad in the face of the pandemic. Aid cuts at this level risk permanent damage to dozens of international development charities and their delivery of life-saving programmes for the poorest … Without support, vital services will go and lives will be lost.”
The FCDO have been approached for comment.