Charities react to government’s civil society strategy

16 Nov 2017 News

Charity representatives have said that they are looking forward to working with the government on a new civil society strategy, which was announced today. 

Tracey Crouch, minister for civil society said that the government would launch a listening exercise in the new year, and so far charity leaders have indicated that they will be keen to contribute. 

NCVO: ‘we’re looking forward to taking part’

Karl Wilding director of public policy and volunteering at NCVO, said:”Making sure people are supported to get involved in their communities is one of the most important things any government can do. And making sure voluntary organisations are valued and supported by the government will mean they can do even more across society. It’s very positive that the government are looking at how they can do this together across departments.
“The consultative approach that the minister has set out is absolutely the right one to get the best results, and we’re looking forward to taking part in helping to create a successful strategy.”

Acevo: ‘we hope it will provide a platform to develop the sector’ 

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, said: “It's good to see Tracey Crouch's commitment to producing a civil society strategy which will protect the sustainability of the vital work our sector does. We look forward to engaging Acevo's network of leaders with the minister as she formulates her plan, which we hope will provide a platform to support and develop our sector and its impact in the years ahead.”

CFG: ‘needs to be backed up by funding’

Andrew O’Brien, director of policy and engagement of Charity Finance Group, said: “It is good to see the government recognising the strategic value of the sector and we look forward to engaging with it on the strategy. 

“It is important, however, that this strategy is backed up with funding and a beefed up Office of Civil Society to implement it. Without this any strategy has the risk of becoming merely words on paper and have no impact on the operating environment for charities. Given the tough times ahead, we cannot afford to waste the potential of the sector.”

IoF: ‘good fundraising needs to be part of it’

Daniel Fluskey, head of policy and research for the IoF, said that it is a “good opportunity” and that “promoting and supporting good fundraising needs to underpin a strategy for civil society”. 

SCC: ‘make sure small charities are heard’

Mandy Johnson, chief executive of the Small Charities Coalition, also welcomed the announcement, and said that she “looks forward to engaging with DCMS to make sure small charity voices are heard”.  

NPC: 'will be a test of how powerful the Office of Civil Society'

Patrick Murray, head of policy and external affairs at NPC, said: “For many organisations working with government their strongest relationships with the state are around the areas of they work in such as health, employment, criminal justice or housing. 
“There is much that can be done within existing resources to support charities to make a greater impact, as NPC has set out previously – targeting funding and regulation on impact, levelling the playing field in commissioning, supporting the sector to embrace digital, and opening up government data. 
“The goal of strengthening broader civil society is important too. As we outlined at the Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement yesterday the government can support local areas to map existing physical and social assets, and redress imbalances of social capital by channelling funding from dormant assets to areas in greatest need. It’s important too that the listening exercise goes beyond the traditional sector voices, and includes efforts to engage with beneficiaries of charities and people with lived experience who are often missed out.
“Ultimately this new strategy will be a test of how powerful the Office of Civil Society is now it’s not in a cross-cutting department such as the Cabinet Office. At such a challenging time for the sector warm words need to lead to action. The ambition is right, but the proof will be in the pudding.”

Lloyds Bank Foundation: 'chance for the government to get fully behind the charity sector'

Paul Streets, chief executive Lloyds Bank Foundation, said: “We welcome today’s announcement of a new strategy for civil society and look forward to working with the government to develop its proposals. Any strategy must give its focus to those that make up the majority of the sector – small and medium charities.

“Charities with a turnover of less than £1m make up 97 per cent of the sector. They are delivering vital support and services in our communities – often going unrecognised and undervalued for it. 

“Day in and day out we see the role that these charities play in our communities, using their knowledge and experience to help those most in need. They too are the ones facing the biggest challenges. Funding is reducing as demand and complexity increases and what public funding there is from central and local government is increasingly routed through large contracts that effectively cut out small charities. 

“Today’s announcement is a chance for the government to get fully behind the charity sector and to listen to and learn from the small and local charities which make it what it is. It is also a chance to build on the important work already done by the House of Lords and Civil Societies Futures Project and to further strengthen charities to not just survive but thrive.

“Now the government must play its role to help them to flourish and give them and those they support the chance of a brighter future. Most importantly we encourage the government to recognise its own role in supporting the sector, particularly small and local charities, as a valued partner in policy making and service delivery, right across government. 

“We will play our part – we hope government will seize this opportunity with both hands.”

Social Enterprise UK: 'real proof of the pudding will be to see how we feature in the industrial strategy'

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of SEUK, said: “On Social Enterprise Day, it’s great to see the minister recognise the need for a Civil Society Strategy that includes social enterprise and recognises the important role they play. However the real proof of the pudding will be to see how we feature in the industrial strategy, which is where social enterprise should and must be recognized as having the untapped potential to make a much more significant difference, not just within civil society, but in every aspect of Britain’s future economy.” 

Locality: 'needs to focus on how government can harness the power of community

Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Locality said: “Our country faces huge challenges, but we have huge resources within our communities to tackle them. The new civil society strategy needs to focus on how government can harness this ‘power of community’, proving a much clearer strategy for how it will convene government action, maximise limited resources and build strong local partnerships. 
“We believe that that now is a crucial moment for government to create a more supportive policy environment for community organisations to respond to local need and drive their own neighbourhoods forward. The Grenfell Tower tragedy showed both the devastating consequences when communities’ voices are not heard; but also their incredible resilience and capacity to respond. The civil society strategy needs to truly put communities in control. It can do this by providing greater support for communities to take on ownership of important local buildings; reshaping public service commissioning, so that it enables local organisations to deliver person centred services that keep public spending local; and reinvigorating the localism agenda and putting neighbourhoods at the heart of devolution."  

ACF: 'Foundations will be keen to share insights'

Carol Mack, chief executive of the Association of Charitable Foundations, said: "I'm pleased to see today's announcement from DCMS that the government will develop a new civil society strategy. I'm particularly glad that the minister has committed to consult widely with the sector and to involve other government departments. Foundations have seen significant shifts in civil society over recent years and will be keen to share their evidence and insights with DCMS."

National Youth Agency: 'opportunity to listen to young people'

Leigh Middleton, manging director of National Youth Agency, said: “I am pleased that the Minister has launched consultation on a strategy for civil society and welcome the opportunity to continue our dialogue with DCMS. My hope is that this is a real opportunity to get young people listened to and their needs focused on by government.”


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