CLASH and other organisations denied funding due to governance technicalities...

At the beginning of April we shared an update on our unsuccessful Culture Recovery Fund Round Two bid, read more HERE on our first take. With over a third of applications unsuccessful, we have been inundated with other arts organisations contacting us to share their own experiences with the Culture Recovery Fund process.`

Hastily put together, the Culture Recovery Fund bid process generated a host of publicly documented issues for applicants in Round One due to a range of contradictory information provided and what many felt was a one size fits all approach taken. A vast underestimation by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the need for state aid and an incredibly complex bid process administrated by an already inundated Arts Council team.

When trying to seek guidance from the Arts Council many businesses and independent practitioners were left with easily answered questions unanswered, or worse were totally unaware they could even apply.  Vital organisations were then rejected whilst others who were already either demonstrably failing, rife with employment disputes, and in some instances entirely fabricated businesses were granted aid unfairly.

As if not already complex enough, at some point between Round One / Round Two of the bid process right in the middle of the pandemic there were fundamental guidance changes to the small print on how organisations should fill out the application. With the guidance for this governance change literally buried in their website, even Arts Council staff members were unclear on changes and unable to offer any signposting to their website nor support for anyone asking for clarification.

Due to the volume of submissions, the Arts Council were only able to provide one line responses to organisations 65 page bids. Adding insult to injury rejection letters and announcements for Round Two landed on (drum roll please for the irony) April Fools Dayalbeit many had heard early due to a blundered internal email wrongly sent by a senior Arts Council staff member.

The rationale we were provided for our rejection for CRF Round Two funding was a "failure to sufficiently adapt to COVID-19”. We contacted the Arts Council who refused to provide further information. Sensing something was amiss we then submitted a series of Freedom Of Information Act requests.

CLASH like many others had submitted our bid aligned to the guidance given by the Arts Council for round one. Contradictory to our rejection letter, our Freedom Of Information request revealed we were rejected for following the Round One criteria, rather than noting the updated round two criteria which lies buried deep in the Arts Council website.

Our rejection had absolutely nothing to do with how we "adapted to covid-19", instead was solely due to the changes in guidance on governance administration. Had CLASH submitted the same bid structured identically for round one, we would likely have been granted aid and been able to employ a host of creatives when they needed work the most in 2020. 

Had we been signposted to changes in guidance we would have made simple changes to our round two bid & likely been successful. In turn CLASH would now be employing a host of new creatives and arts practitioners.

So, why were organisations who were rejected on a governance technicality - after requesting guidance for months on this point specifically, informed they had 'failed to manage the impact of covid-19' on their Arts Council rejection letters?

#HereForCulture? As we reported previously there is no formal appeals process. Organisations and independent practitioners are therefore seemingly left no alternative but to try and escalate their case for a formal review via legal proceedings, or instead are encouraged to take out repayable government loans.

We have now submitted a further series of Freedom Of Information requests and have again requested public comment from the Arts Council and DCMS whilst considering our next steps.

If you have been similarly affected please get in touch via [email protected]

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NTIA STATEMENT:

"The NTIA are eager, alongside hundreds of unsuccessful businesses, to understand the criteria with which some of these decisions have been made.

There is a huge amount of frustration within the sector, as many of the reasons for denial do not correlate with the applications, forcing many to question the criteria and assessment process.

With limited success for many NTE Businesses we have to consider who is representing the sector within DCMS and ACE, but looking at the Cultural Recovery Board we clearly have no representation from the sector, and it is broadly represented by the classic arts sector.

There are inconsistencies between different applications and their viability assessments which has led to funding being declined, with no recourse for appeal, this has left people deflated and let down."

NTIA Feedback from Unsuccessful Applicants Included:

* Businesses who have survived over 12 months of this pandemic have failed due to their adaptability, leaving many in disbelief given the hardships they have faced and the adaptations they have made to keep their businesses going.

* Some businesses were assessed as culturally significant in Round (1) CRF and have been deemed not significant enough in CRF Round (2)

*Artists agents/management receiving cultural recovery funding, where the artist, who is fundamental to the success of these businesses are being denied.

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SUPPORT CLASH:

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SEEKING HELP?

There is no formal appeal process for Culture Recovery Fund decisions at present.

If you are an individual or organisation at risk you can however still seek support from the Arts Council and other independent charitable bodies.

You can seek advice by contacting the Arts Council for more information via: [email protected]

If you are struggling to deal with pressure there are other avenues you can turn to for help. Please contact the CLASH Team via socials @ClashMagazine or via email to [email protected]

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OTHER SUPPORT ORGANISATIONS

Here are some other organisations that can provide immediate support;

Mind

Mind Infoline: 0300 123 3393

Mind.org.uk

The Mind Info Line offers thousands of callers confidential help on a range of mental health issues.  Mind helps people take control of their mental health. We do this by providing high-quality information and advice, and campaigning to promote and protect good mental health for everyone.

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The Samaritans

Tel: 116 123

Samaritans

Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year. We provide a safe place for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. Please call 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org

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