Sir Bert Massie has promised that the refreshed Compact will not be a "government fig leaf to cover the imbalance of power with themselves and the voluntary sector".
Massie, speaking at the launch of the refreshed Compact today, told an audience of civil servants, charities and MPs that failures in the Compact principles over the past ten years were "frustrating, but broken bones can and do heal".
The new Compact, which has been cut from 160 pages to 22 and covers three key areas - involvement in policy development, allocating resources and advancing equality, is designed to improve partnership working between the government and voluntary sector. It has been refreshed to rejuvenate the former Compact which has had limited success over ten years.
Massie (pictured) said the next step for the Commission was implementing the new version.
“We will be having a promotion campaign,” he said. “And we will need other things to persuade stakeholders to use it.
“A review of the function and remit of the Commission for the Compact, Compact Voice and Office of the Third Sector is planned. We will all have important roles to play. If government can ignore the Compact, the government must be given incentives to meet its commitment, positive and negative.”
Jenny Willott, the charities spokeswoman for the Liberal Democrats, attacked the government last year for breaching the Compact. Willott tabled an Early Day Motion calling on the government to reinstate the £750,000 campaigning fund that had been redirected from the Campaign Research Programme to the Hardship Fund.
At the time Willott said: “What is so appalling is the manner in which this has been done, with no warning or consultation. How does the government expect to convince other public bodies to abide by the Compact when they treat charities in this way?"
Massie also said the Commission for the Compact was developing a knowledgebase on the Compact and asked third sector organisations, including umbrella bodies, to sign up independently and publicly to the Compact.
“You should take the Compact into meetings with public bodies and show them the principles,” he said. “Umbrella bodies should also formally follow the Compact and improve relations with the public sector.”
Survey response 'disappointing'
Massie went on to voice his disappointment that last year there was lacklustre support for an assessment survey of awareness, knowledge and use of the government Compact among government bodies.
“I was disappointed with the response rate,” he said. “I was seeking five officials in 17 government departments to come back and one replied out of 240 quangos. Overall we were hoping for 325 replies and we only received 143.”
Massie said he planned to ask several quangos and government departments why they didn’t reply despite reminders.
The interim baseline results from the survey found that 47 per cent of quangos and government departments strongly agreed that third sector organisations had distinctive experience and expertise in delivering services. More modestly, 68 per cent agreed that where the voluntary sector acted as strategic partners for government or non-departmental public bodies they were an effective means of consulting with the voluntary sector, and 62 per cent agreed that the voluntary sector recognised the constraints under with government/non-departmental public bodies worked with the voluntary sector.
- See here for more comments from the launch.