The government has announced plans for a new civil society strategy that will coordinate and improve how public sector bodies interact with the charity sector.
The plans have been announced today in the House of Commons by Karen Bradley, the culture secretary. She said: “We value the vital work that civil society contributes in a number of areas.”
Implementation will be led by Tracey Crouch, minister for civil society.
Crouch told Civil Society news that the project was not about finding new funding for charities but making better use of the resources that government already had available. She said she expected to see changes in policy and practice as a result of the strategy.
“It will be a proper, meaningful strategy,” she told Civil Society News. “It will have conclusions and recommendations and directions.”
Crouch said one key focus was on coordination between different branches of government.
“It will bring together government departments,” she said. “It will ensure we have a joined up approach to charities, across Whitehall.”
She said that one of the issues to be addressed was the “machinery of government” – the process which governs the connections between branches of government.
“At the moment there are loads of different parts of government delivering their bits, and working with different charities in different ways, and there’s little coordination,” she said.
The next step will be a “listening exercise” to discover what the key issues facing the sector are, and work out how the strategy should address them. This will launch in the new year, with recommendations to be published later on next year.
The work will be coordinated by the Office for Civil Society, in close partnership with other departments, particularly DCLG.
Crouch said that she had already successfully implemented a sports strategy, in her role as minister for sport, and that she saw “enormous similarities”.
Partnerships and communities
Crouch said the strategy would focus not just on registered charities but on communities and individuals who wanted to contribute. She said one of its key areas of focus would be on increasing participation.
“We believe in the strength of the sector and we want to support the growth of civil society,” she said. “We want to create partnerships with government and to strength relationships between sectors – public, private and voluntary – and local communities. It’s about empowering individuals to play a full role, and getting communities to take action on issues which matter to them.
“This is building on the idea of the shared society that the Prime Minister advocated earlier this year. It’s an opportunity to unlock the enormous potential of civil society, and take a strategic long term view of what it needs for the future.”
A written ministerial statement giving supplementary information has now been released. It is published in full below.
Written ministerial statement
I wish to inform the House today of the government’s intention to develop a Civil Society Strategy.
Civil society plays a vital role in the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities across our country, and in helping to address some burning injustices.
This Strategy will provide an opportunity to explore ways to build new partnerships within and between sectors and communities, so that we can better mobilise resources and expertise and find practical new solutions to the problems we face. It will reaffirm the value that government places on civil society. It will explore what more government can do to support its work.
Civil Society in England is broad. It encompasses the work of individuals, charities, youth organisations and communities. Civil Society is increasingly diverse, with growing numbers of social enterprises, mission led businesses and public service mutuals, as well as many more private businesses and investors that want to make a meaningful contribution.
I would like the Strategy to help shape the future direction for our work with and for civil society, and encompass all who have a role to play in building a stronger and fairer society.
It will be developed through dialogue and debate with people, groups, and organisations across government, businesses and wider civil society. It will build on engagements to date, including work with young people and youth organisations, as well as work to grow social impact investing, among others.
The Office for Civil Society, in the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, will lead this work, with input from the Department for Communities and Local Government and other departments. A listening exercise will be launched in the new year and findings reported later in the year.