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Some Misuse of Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) Funding
Cash seized from gangsters and distributed by the Scottish Government isn’t all going to the purposes for which it was intended. Kids Not Suits would like to see more of it being spent on playparks and kickpitches in the poorest communities.
Each year, around £8M of money seized from Scottish gangsters is redistributed by the Government. Most of it goes out through the Cashback for Communities scheme. In theory, projects involving young people that are healthy, open to all, developmental, sustainable get the money. It’s meant to be used to expand young people’s horizons and increase the opportunities they have to develop their interests and skills. The CashBack website here explains the money is meant to be used largely, but not exclusively, for young people at risk of turning to crime and anti-social behaviour as a way of life.
In practise, a good part of it goes elsewhere. Research has exposed that any capital cash available is often used to subsidise sporting facilities for the middle classes.
The problem is that there is very little money around to fund the kind of resources that young people hugely value: facilities for unsupervised play. These could be playparks, adventure playgrounds or kickpitches.
Funding for Playparks: Why it matters
Money from landfill tax has traditionally subsidised play facilities in Scotland. But recycling is so effective that the use of landfill sites is falling. The Rosslyn site near Edinburgh is closing; landfill tax is declining. The landfill tax was redistributed by the Government to playparks and youth kickabout facilities through WREN and BIFFA. WREN recently closed its South-East of Scotland operations.
Edinburgh Council benefitted directly by around £100,000pa and agencies such as Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust got maybe a further £100,000- all of this went to help pay for Edinburgh’s playparks and youth kickabout facilities (mooted to be the poorest in Scotland).. The Council just doesn’t have the cash to improve them by as much as it would like. So from November 2012, when the last round of WREN funding was announced this source dried up. What’s worse, the Lottery won’t fund playparks either. (Although in England they do.)
So scottish children are set to suffer from even poorer play facilities.
How does CashBack funding get disbursed?
Over £46 million in cash and assets has been seized from gangland criminals since 2007 through Proceeds of Crime legislation. Through CashBack, part of this funding goes in revenue grants i.e. to fund staff to work with young people. But unsupervised play facilities have to be funded by a capital grant. CashBack disburses all its capital grant funding through Sportscotland. They state that their money would support sports and community facilities for essential refurbishment and renovation.
So if an area was in need of a multi-use games area (aka MUGA, or kickpitch), one would think that Sportscotland should seriously consider funding it. But they won’t.
(MUGA’s cost about £60,000 – so would need to meet the criteria for a project under £100,000 (see guidelines here))
A Council worker found this out when he approached Sportscotland for MUGA funding seeking cash from the CashBack scheme for the Piershill area of Edinburgh. The area needed improved facilities for young people aged 4 to 20 and the user group met the Cash Back criteria. The worker had been urged by the Justice Minister (Kenny Macaskill MSP) whose constituency includes Piershill, to seek CashBack funding for the MUGA facility. However, it became clear that the only CashBack funding would have to come from the Sports Facilities Fund administered by Sport Scotland.
After some discussion, however, it became clear that the Sports Facilities Fund would not support this MUGA. Sport Scotland were nervous about funding resources in deprived areas and explained they preferred to support staffed facilities. They thought facilities would be vandalised if there weren’t staff around to supervise them.
So the situation was that none of the agencies distributing CashBack funding were prepared to fund facilities highly desired by young people, namely – unsupervised play and sporting areas.
WREN to the rescue
In the end the worker secured funding from WREN, but was only able to fund the MUGA by cutting the other play facilities by 50% (losing the climbing rocks and the wheeled play area). Many of the activities that provide so much pleasure and value as diversionary activities to young people in a highly built-up area (climbing, cycling, skateboarding) had to be removed from the plans.
In 2012 enquiries were made of the Scottish Government if there was any way that some of the cashback funding could be routed to agencies such as WREN, who could then use it to fund facilities for unsupervised sports- or even, play facilities.
It was pointed out to the Community Safety Unit, who distribute the money to bodies such as Sport Scotland, that CashBack is meant to be used for diversionary activities for children and young people in areas with higher crime or deprivation and projects that reduce anti-social behaviour. Neither of which rules featured in Sports Scotland’s conditions for distributing its CashBack’s funding.
Government says No
The Government response was indeed that CashBack funding was to be used to expand young people’s horizons and increase the opportunities they have to develop their interests and skills. However, it was fully committed until 2013/14 so they were unable to help. The Government website presently says that all funding available to the programme is fully committed to existing projects and the Government is unable to commit to funding new projects.
Sportscotland has Funded only 1 Kickpitch in a Deprived Area
Kids not Suits submitted an FOI at Xmas 2012. It exposed that Sportscotland had funded just 4 kickpitches to date: those were between 2009 and 2011, and only 1 was in a deprived area. The 3 others were not open for free play either, and had to be booked through the local football club. Total cash disbursed for these kickpitches was £258,940- just 3% of the total funds available. The Cashback funding Sportscotland received was not ringfenced but added to their general fund.
As at January, when Sportscotland responded to the FOI, no MUGAs at all had been funded through either football or rugby Cashback funding programmes. (See the FOI here)
Cashback Money for Football and Rugby
Sportscotland’s said in their FOI reply that the Cashback for Facilities Fund had been running since 2009, and had allocated nearly £8.25million of Cashback funding to Football and Rugby projects. In summary, nearly £2million was allocated to football projects in 2009, with a further £5million invested in football and £1.25million in rugby projects in 2010/2011.
Sportscotland say they administer Cashback funding on behalf of Scottish Government, with the amounts allocated to the Football and Rugby Funding programmes determined by Scottish Government and not Sportscotland. Sportscotland say they have no powers under the Cashback for Facilities Fund to ring-fence funding for any specific sports or project types.
Sportscotland say projects were identified through consultation with the Scottish Football Association and Scottish Rugby. Funding was awarded to projects where the main aims and objectives met the criteria set out in the Guidelines attached to the relevant Cashback for Facilities Fund. Applications were considered by a panel made up of representatives from the Scottish Football Association or Scottish Rugby (as appropriate), the Scottish Government and Sportscotland.
An Unsatisfactory Solution
Sportscotland announced (just a month ago, in June) their scheme to offer the Cashback funding through the “Cashback for Pitches Fund”. This is progress- but hardly the provision Kids not Suits was hoping for.
Sportscotland say on their website here that they want their Cashback funding to pay for full-size astroturf pitches “where anti-social behaviour, violence and crime particularly affects the life chances of those living in or around these communities, with a clear emphasis on young people (under the age of 19).”
But from experience, Sportscotland have shown they are unwilling to fund unstaffed resources in disadvantaged areas- arguing that they’ll just get vandalised.
The problem is that it is largely in disadvantaged areas that one finds their target grouping of young people- and so there may be few successful applications for the cash. Indeed, there are precious few staffed sports facilities in deprived areas. Since the money is
not exclusively for diversionary work, the likelihood is that Sportscotland will revert to their old practise of using the cash to fund full-size pitches in more affluent areas. And the big question is this- how much of a demand is there for artificial 3G pitches from young people at risk of getting involved with crime, anyway? 3G surfaces are expensive and risky to leave open for unsupervised use. They all end up pay and play so they miss their professed target audience. Sportscotland’s insistence on restricting Cashback to 3G alone makes little sense.
There will be a greater demand from disadvantaged youth for MUGAs, which are open access and can be used anytime. But this Cashback funding won’t provide for them.
That makes the case stronger for MUGAs: if these facilities are adopted by the Council they can survive even in the most deprived areas, because there is not a lot to break in them.
It feels like Sportscotland are still not using the Cashback funding for the reason for which it was intended. (ie to provide diversionary activities for young people at risk of crime)
Lobby the Scottish Government
Pressure needs to be put upon the Community Safety Unit at the Scottish Government. They need to understand that none of the partner organisations that receive much of the POCA funding are prepared to fund facilities highly desired by young people, namely – unsupervised play and sporting areas.
The impression is that the Unit feels that the money should be used to pay for adults to work with children. The CashBack website shows that much of the cash goes to sporting agencies. However, many of these agencies use the money to run outreach work in disadvantaged areas and have no long-term presence in such areas. The legacy of their impact is low. If there were better playparks and more kickpitches, outdoor tennis-table tables and so forth then young people could benefit from the funding at times at suited them and in places within their community…..without adults trying to organise them. Teenagers in particular value such places.
There is a real problem funding playparks, kickpitches and teen shelters in Scotland. Government and the Lottery largely consider it’s the local authorities problem. So without WREN, and with no access to POCA cash, we are set to see children’s play and sporting facilities in Scotland get poorer.
POCA funding is meant to reduce crime by diverting young people at risk, not to subsidise recreational sports for the middle classes. Pressure needs to be put on MSPs to rectify this. The Community Safety Unit needs to tell Sportscotland that the POCA funding they receive must be used for the purposes for which it was intended. It needs to be targeted at recreational facilities that benefit under-19 year olds, not adults. And there needs to be a proper commitment to siting unstaffed resources in poor areas. If Sportscotland won’t do this, the money should be given to WREN to distribute instead.
Results to Date
The Justice Minister, Kenny Macaskill MSP was challenged about the lack of Cashback funding for kickpitches and play facilities. He responded by outlining a scheme that had been set up by Sportscotland which looks to fund facilities including play, skate and bike parks, Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs), pitch and putt courses and bouldering/climbing walls. It appears that this £10M scheme is not funded by Cashback money though, but by Commonwealth Games cash. The Active Places Fund will consider applications from local community and voluntary groups for activities that would assist in getting people more active. More info here. The Sportscotland website doesn’t actually include playparks and kickpitches in its criteria, rather mentioning new bike or skate parks, outdoor adventure facilities, walking routes, etc. The scheme was launched in Oct 2012 and will run to 2015; time will tell what gets supported, where and by who. It is unclear if local authorities will be able to apply for the cash themselves.
|Date page last updated: 2nd July 2013|