Claims that the National Lottery would strangle donations to medical research are contradicted in the 1995 financial results of major research charities. The incomes of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, the British Heart Foundation and the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council for Research have all increased.
Medical research charities feared their incomes would drop as people spent their spare cash on lottery tickets rather than donations. The Association of Medical Research Charities said last May that it expected a drop in income for 1995 of £10-18 million.
But the ICRF says that even income regarded as the most vulnerable - from street and house-to-house collections - has increased. The charity's own lottery also earned more. Figures have not yet been released but the charity said the increase is "not at all marginal, it's a good per cent".
The ICRF, the United Kingdom's largest fundraising medical charity with an annual income of around £54 million, said that its voluntary workers have "really pulled the stops out to try and make sure that the lottery doesn't have an effect".
It also began to reap the results of fundraising schemes implemented several years ago. But it says that even when this factor is taken into account there is still no measureable damage from the lottery.
The British Heart Foundation's director of fundraising, Michael Robertson, said the charity has "hardly been affected at all" by the lottery. The foundation will have raised about £44 million in the year to April 1996 compared with £40 million for the year before.
The charity's tactics illustrate the fact that even when some sources of income have been damaged by the lottery it has been possible to take avoiding action:18 months ago the BHF increased its income from planned giving, such as standing orders or legacies, which account for just over half of its income. This has more than compensated for a drop in income from jumble sales and coffee mornings, which Mr Robertson said had fallen by 20-30 per cent.
A National Lottery spokeswoman said: "We do not feel that charities have been affected. This confirms our beliefs."
The Arthritis and Rheumatism Council for Research, whose income was up half a million to £16.6 million, also said that its increase was because of legacies, which could be masking drops in other sources of income. Appeals and marketing director Jeremy Sutton-Pratt said that there was a "firm belief" that income from street collections was down.
And the lottery may still have seriously affected smaller medical research charities, which make up 20 per cent of the £380 million sector. Their returns have not yet been collated. Diana Garnham, of the Association of Medical Research Charities, said that they could not take evasive action, such as switching "to direct mail if they are used to knocking on doors".
But she said: "I would be delighted if the publicity that the medical research charities have had has cushioned them from the downturn."
The Cancer Research Campaign does not yet have its 1995 results. But it is pessimistic that it will have been damaged by the lottery. It has joined up with Littlewoods and three other charities to launch a rival lottery which it is hoped will yield each charity £500,000 each year.