National Lottery Heritage Fund announces £50m emergency fund to support heritage sector

National Lottery Heritage Fund announce £50m emergency fund to support heritage sector
Merddin Emrys head towards Blaenau with a mixed Passenger & Slate Empties in 2005 Photo: Robin Stewart-Smith.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund is making £50m available in response to the significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the UK’s heritage.

The new Heritage Emergency Fund will help those most in need over the next three to six months with investment in essential digital skills across the sector, providing expertise in digital fundraising, use of social media and communications, and running online events and activities. 

In addition, the National Lottery Heritage Fund is continuing to support 2,500 projects already in delivery across the UK, an overall commitment of £1.1bn. This funding has been made possible thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.

Funding through the Emergency Fund for grants of between £3,000 to 50,000 will be available to organisations that have received funding in the past and are either a current grantee, or still under contract following a previous grant.

Applications will be open to the full breadth of heritage, from historic sites, industrial and maritime heritage, museums, libraries and archives to parks and gardens and landscapes and nature.

Priority will be given where there is limited or no access to other sources of support, or where heritage is most at risk. The National Lottery Heritage Fund has surveyed more than 1250 heritage organisations on the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The results show that 82% of respondents reported a high or moderate risk to their organisation’s long-term viability. 35% stated their financial reserves will be depleted within four months, and 46% of organisations can survive for no more than six months.

Incredibly challenging for heritage community

Eilish McGuinness, Executive Director, Business Delivery, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “We know that circumstances are incredibly challenging for our heritage community right now and we want to do everything we can to support them. We hope this new Emergency Fund and our investment in digital capability will be a lifeline for organisations affected.

“Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities better places to live, creating economic prosperity and supporting health and wellbeing.  All of these are going to be vitally important as we emerge from this current crisis.”

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “It is important that we do all we can to ensure our nation’s remarkable heritage landscapes, buildings and monuments – and the hardworking organisations that protect them – are supported at this difficult time.

“Heritage plays an important role in our communities by supporting jobs and economic growth as well as helping us to understand our shared past. This new £50 million package from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will help to protect our most at risk heritage throughout this unprecedented period.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said:  “We really welcome this positive news from the National Lottery Heritage Fund of a £50m fund to help heritage organisations in immediate need. We are also planning emergency financial support to run alongside this and other measures introduced by the Government and our partners in the heritage and cultural sectors, and will announce details soon.”

The emergency funding will be diverted from planned new grants, with all new grant applications halted with immediate effect. Delivery awards for projects that have already received development funding will continue to be made throughout the crisis, on the existing competitive basis.

The Emergency Fund is part of a wider raft of support available from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, for heritage organisations affected by the crisis, which includes:

  • Continuing to support those 2,500 organisations where funding of £1.1bn is already committed, by being as flexible as possible, allowing for delays or changes in the way projects are delivered, relaxing normal grant conditions and bringing forward payments if necessary.
  • Additional £1.2m investment in our Digital Skills for Heritage initiative to help the sector through the crisis and beyond.
  • A further £2m for ROSS consultants – the experts who support projects, help run delivery, mentor, monitor and help with business plans etc. We will be directing that support to organisations in need as a result of the crisis and in doing so supporting several hundred freelancers and self-employed. 
  • Continuing to make round two delivery awards throughout the crisis on a competitive basis as usual.
  • Working closely with the Government, other funders and heritage organisations to align help and support and ensure the best possible outcome for heritage.
  • Providing bespoke advice and support via our local teams, and in some cases, specialist mentor support.

Grants from the new Emergency Fund will be open for applications and further details provided on the selection criteria and how to apply in the next few days. Decisions will be made as quickly as possible to support the sector.
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