UK government Spotlight fund application assessments

Released: March 2020

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Spotlight is a software tool developed by the UK Cabinet Office to help government departments and local authorities conduct due diligence on organisations applying for public funds, and to identify those that may require further investigation.

Spotlight draws on a variety of data sources to sort applicants into a red, amber or green category based on it's assessment of the risk they present.

According to the UK government, 'Spotlight speeds up initial pre-award checks by processing thousands of applications in minutes replacing manual analysis that, typically, can take at least two hours per application.'

UK Culture Recovery Fund

In November 2020, Arts Professional reported that Arts Council England had been using Spotlight to assess applications of up to GBP 3 million for the UK's GBP 1.57 billion COVID-19 Culture Recovery Fund. 

Following earlier unease about how recipients had been chosen, the article prompted journalists to accuse the UK government of 'a total lack of transparency' surrounding the process for awarding emergency arts funds.  

Others asked why many struggling arts organisations had been turned down whilst others with deep pockets had been given even more money, leaving the government open to accusations of 'cultural elitism' and political bias.

DWP Kickstart gateways

Spotlight stands accused of helping approve 'dozens of companies' selected by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to become 'Kickstart gateways' had little to no trading history, or were based outside of the UK, according to a February 2023 FE Week investigation.

The investigation raised questions about the quality of gateway providers, as well as about Spotlight's effectiveness. 

The UK government's Kickstart scheme was a new employer initiative announced in summer 2020 aimed at creating six-month paid work placements for young people who were at risk of long-term unemployment. The scheme closed in January 2023.

A Kickstart 'gateway' was a type of organisation, such as a local authority, charity or trade body that would act as an intermediary and apply for funding on behalf of companies wishing to create fewer than 30 job placements.

Operator: Arts Council England (ACE); UK Cabinet Office
Developer: UK Cabinet Office

Country: UK

Sector: Govt - culture; Govt - employment

Purpose: Assess public funds applications

Technology: Automated risk assessment
Issue: Accuracy/reliability; Bias/discrimination - political

Transparency: Governance


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