Charities and social enterprises have a “huge and central role to play” in levelling up, the new minister said earlier this week.
For his first appearance since being appointed as minister for civil society, Nigel Huddleston sent a video message to NPC’s conference, which is taking place this week.
He said: “Charities, social enterprises and volunteers play a vital role in modern Britain.
“From large national organisations, to locally-run community projects, they tackle some of the greatest challenges that we face, and help people and communities most in need.”
‘Huge potential in embedding civil society as part of my broader portfolio’
Huddleston is also the minister for sport, tourism and heritage – roles he held prior to the latest reshuffle. Through this work he said he has “worked closely with youth groups, charities and other civil society organisations on a wide range of projects and initiatives”.
Some charity leaders have questioned whether the charity sector will be a priority for a minister with other big areas in his portfolio, but Huddleston said he hopes that incorporating responsibility for civil society into his role will have benefits.
“I am very pleased to be taking on this role. Civil society is a critical part of so much of what DCMS and the whole of government is working to achieve,” he told delegates.
“I believe there is huge potential in embedding civil society as part of my broader portfolio, for example aligning our efforts to unlock philanthropy and grow the role of volunteers.”
Future role for civil society
Huddleston acknowledged the challenges created by the pandemic and the “great strains on many charities”, and praised the volunteer response.
Looking to the future, he said the sector has a “huge and central role to play” in the levelling up agenda.
“We know that the involvement of volunteers, charities and social enterprises make a huge difference to the experience of living in a place, providing opportunities for everyone, young and old, to become active citizens,” he said.
“Participation in civil society builds social cohesiveness and allows people to come together to tackle issues and challenges collectively.
“We also know that where charities and social enterprises are active they can deliver positive outcomes for people in need through the services they provide.”
Opportunity to look again at how government, civil society, the private sector work together
Going further, Huddleston says he wants expand current provision.
“Together we can do even more to make sure these opportunities are available in all neighbourhoods,” he said.
“Levelling up provides us with an opportunity to look again at how government, civil society, the private sector and local communities can work together to go even further, and maximise our collective impact.”
He added that he is “committed to building and maintaining an open and constructive partnership” between government and the charity sector.