Are energy costs limiting what you can do? Do you own or lease your building or chapel? The government’s energy efficiency scheme is issuing grants to registered charities and community groups to upgrade their buildings. The VSCE Energy Efficiency Scheme is a government grant for energy efficiency. It could be worthwhile considering if your Friends group has its own building. Grants are available for sums between £2,000 and £150,000.
There are eligibility criteria, but if your application is acceptable, they will send round an Independent Energy Assessor who will propose a set of energy efficiency measures for a capital grant that will cut down your bills. The application asks that you have considered other financing methods first - some valid reasons might be that you couldn’t get a loan because you have no security to lend against, or you don’t have the resources to manage financing.
They are most interested in the “services” you deliver and who benefits. They say that they expect to be over-subscribed and will prioritise based on 1: “needy & worthy causes”, 2: organisations where energy costs are most limiting their activities, 3: small organisations less than £1m, 4: best value for money. They are focussed on front-line services: that means explaining the people you assist in the application. (For a cemetery friends group, this might be membership and your visitors. It could be worthwhile stressing the importance of the building during visits, and its importance to you if it is hired out.)
Overall there’s £23.4m available, including £3.4m to deliver the assessments. They will ask to see some previous bills, so this may not be a suitable grant if you have just taken over the building. But if you have had possession and are rebuilding, they may fund the efficiency measures.
If successful you will get 3 quotes for the work and then add a contingency, manage the contractors, supervise the project and fill in the feedback and they will release the funds for you to pay the contractor - possibly in stages so you are not out of pocket. Afterwards there’s feedback expected. You can also ask for an ‘enabler’ who will work with you to help you deliver the project. There are pre-conditions: you must be a charity or community organisation. You must own own or lease the building (with 2 years or more remaining on the lease) or have the owner’s permission. It can’t be used for worship for more than 50% of the time. They want to see previous energy bills, which seems to rule out new acquisitions. It does not apply to religious buildings, e.g. used for religion for more than 50% of the time. I suspect you will need to explain that a cemetery chapel is not a place of worship in any application.
There are three funding rounds, in February, April and July and projects must be completed and spent by March 2025. The timescale is probably quite tight, and the sooner you can get the application in the better your chances, I suspect. You only get one go, and they won’t take re-applications. They claim the form takes an hour to fill in: however I suspect that gathering the information will take a small group a few days to do.
The VCSE grant is administered by the Groundwork Trust. They have a presentation you can download (PDF).
VCSE grant applications are made through: www.groundwork.org.uk/apply-for-a-grant
Their contacts are: