Lead up to the 2015 election: reflecting on why the Compact is more relevant than ever

ncvo manifesto

On Thursday 4 September, representatives from the voluntary sector and government gathered at the NCVO summer reception. 
 
In between hearing from the previous and current ministers for civil society, meeting old friends and new, and swapping knitting jokes, attendees took the opportunity to peruse the publication being handed around: none other than the NCVO Manifesto 2015.
 
The manifesto sets out the challenges for policymakers going into the next election and proposals to maximise the voluntary sector’s contribution in solving those challenges. 
 
In short, it sets out a vision on what the relationship between national government and voluntary organisations should and could look like.
 
We at Compact Voice think the manifesto is a great example of how the principles of the Compact underpin how the sector imagines our relationship with government. 
 
And to make our point, we’ve picked apart just a few of the key NCVO asks - showing you that when it comes to partnership working, the Compact is never far from the surface.

NCVO message: Welfare to work programmes should be better designed to help people with complex needs

Among other things, NCVO’s vision for a better designed welfare to work programme includes localised, grant funding elements to allow more specialised charities to get involved. 

The general shift away from grants to contract funding has been happening for the last decade or more. More recently however, cuts in government funding have hit grants to the voluntary sector harder than contracts. 

The result is that those organisations, whose work is most suited to grant funding – for instance because they are small, specialised or innovative – are under increasing pressure. 

Principle 3.2 of the Compact is an undertaking by government to consider a range of funding options. As the manifesto makes clear, diversity of funding is essential to ensuring that voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes can continue to provide services.

NCVO message: Review the state of public service markets

NCVO would like to see a more stringent requirement on public bodies to consult citizens and providers about the design of public services. The manifesto also makes clear that more should be done to ensure that voluntary organisations have fair access to grant and contract opportunities.

Adequate and effective consultation with voluntary organisations is one the key themes of the Compact. The Compact's undertakings for government cover early notice of consultations, a recommended 12 week consultation period and working with voluntary organisations from the earliest possible point when designing and delivering services. 

Full engagement of this kind has not always been easy in the last few years. But it is clear that without it, services are more likely to be poorly designed and relationships between government and voluntary organisations more likely to come under strain.
 
The Compact also has something to say on fair access to government resources by the voluntary sector. Principle 3.10 is the government undertaking to ensure that the widest range of organisations can be involved in the provision of services, through appropriate funding and financing models. In the current era of austerity, this is more crucial than ever.

But voluntary organisation participation is not just about funding. It’s also about the other obligations which might come with partnership working – including well managed and transparent application and tendering processes (principle 3.5) and proportionate monitoring and reporting requirements (principle 3.6).

NCVO message: Support the growth of the volunteer movement

NCVO wants to see politicians commit to supporting the growth of the voluntary movement. It goes without saying that Compact Voice supports this – after all, the Compact exists to ensure that voluntary organisations can continue to make their unique contribution when working with the government.

But some of the specific principles of the Compact are also worth reflecting on. For instance, principle 2.2 is a government undertaking to consider how policy and programme development could encourage local social action and empower communities. 

In other words, the Compact makes it clear that the government needs to reflect on how its policies impact on people contributing to their own communities through volunteering.

The Compact in 2015 and beyond

NCVO’s message is that there needs to be a rethink of how government works – and how it works with the voluntary sector. 

The Compact provides a set of fundamentals which help the government orientate itself in its relationship with the voluntary sector. 

That is why Compact principles underpin so many of the NCVO proposals. 

And that is why the Compact, 16 years after it was first established, will continue to remain relevant in 2015 and beyond. 

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