The Office for Civil Society, and its responsibilities including social investment, have been transferred from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture Media and Sport, it was confirmed this afternoon.
In a written statement to Parliament this afternoon, Theresa May, Prime Minister, confirmed the “machinery of government” change.
She said: “The functions of the Office for Civil Society (OCS) have been transferred from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The transfer will include responsibility for youth policy and the National Citizen Service. It will integrate OCS’s work to grow a stronger civil society with DCMS’s existing work to enrich lives. It will also simplify sponsorship responsibilities for the lottery providers.
“OCS will continue its cross-government work in support of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector and their important contribution to public services and the social economy; and its work to promote social and community action, social investment, mission-led business and mutuals.
OCS’s functions relating to policy innovation (the Policy Lab) will remain in the Cabinet Office.”
Rob Wilson, who had been the minister for civil society at the Cabinet Office, was transferred to DCMS in the reshuffle at the weekend.
DCMS has now confirmed that Wilson will continue to be the minister for civil society. He will also be responsible for libraries policy.
Wilson said: “I am delighted to be able to continue my role as minister for civil society, helping to build a bigger and stronger civil society with compassion at its heart.
“There is a huge amount of work still to do to deliver the improvements in society that I wish to see. There are things that I want to see through in the months ahead, which is why I asked to return. The next period will be extremely exciting for the sector, particularly with the great synergies between the Office for Civil Society and DCMS.”
The Policy Lab, which works with other departments to implement digital projects, will remain in the Cabinet Office.
An explanatory note said that the OCS is responsible for:
- growing volunteering, social action, community action and philanthropy
- creating the conditions for a more independent and resilient voluntary, community and social enterprise sector
- promoting social investment and social impact bonds, helping to develop a capital market that supports social impact
- leading across government on the development of mutuals
- developing government policy on mission-led businesses
- supporting youth policy, leading on the creation of opportunities outside school for young people to develop skills and have a stake in society
- expanding the National Citizen Service
Response to criticism
Wilson had been criticised for cancelling a House of Lords Charities Committee evidence session yesterday where he was due to appear. The chair of the Committee yesterday wrote to the Leader of the House to express concern about Wilson's absence.
In a statement the Cabinet Office said: "In light of the Machinery of Government changes that still have not been publically confirmed, the minister thought it was necessary to postpone the session but remains committed to giving evidence and working with the Committee."
The announcement had been expected, following the reshuffle, and a number of sector bodies had expressed concern that moving responsibility for charities could side-line the sector.
Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO, said: “Charities contribute to economic growth and run high quality, user-oriented public services. They can play an important role in delivering the ambitious social justice programme that Theresa May set out in her first speech as prime minister.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Rob Wilson and we know he will want to make the civil society brief a priority both within DCMS and the government as a whole. It's a good thing that we continue to have an experienced minister, familiar with both the challenges in the sector and the potential that voluntary organisations have to help create a stronger society.
“There are reasonable questions about how to ensure cross-cutting issues, such as charities’ role in public services, can be dealt with in the same manner as they were in the Cabinet Office. This is not an insurmountable challenge but will require some focus. The pivotal role of charities and volunteering in every aspect of public life must be a central part of this new government's agenda.”
Earlier today Social Enterprise UK had called for the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy to take on responsibility for social business and has co-ordinated a letter from more than 25 business to the department.
Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said: “Responsibility for social enterprise, investment, co-operatives and mutuals has always sat somewhat uncomfortably outside the Department for Business. We know that with the support of the Department of Business, social enterprises, social investors, community energy co-operatives and other businesses working to improve society and the environment can continue to lead the way in building a fairer, more sustainable UK economy.”