Guest blog: Insights from the Office for Civil Society’s Compact lead

Jonathan OCSJonathan Slater is on secondment at the Office for Civil Society, where he leads on the Compact. Here he discusses some of the key areas he’s been working on during his time there.

On 17th April, I started a six-month secondment working as a Policy Adviser at the Office for Civil Society in the Cabinet Office. My role is to be the policy lead for the Compact, which includes advising the Minister for Civil Society and managing OCS’s relationship with Compact Voice.
My substantive post is at Voluntary Action Lewisham, the umbrella organisation for voluntary and community organisations in the London Borough of Lewisham. My role there is the Strategic Development Officer for Children and Young People. This consists of being a strong advocate for the local voluntary sector by participating in high level strategic meetings with Lewisham Council and other statutory bodies, raising issues of concern, and helping shape key policy decisions through Lewisham’s Children and Young People’s Voluntary and Community Sector Forum. I also provide support, advice and information to 500 voluntary organisations through the CYP Forum who deliver services to children, young people and families in the borough.
The opportunity to do the secondment arose when OCS approached me following a recommendation. After reviewing my CV and formally interviewing me, I was offered a six-month secondment.
In my first three months in the role, I’ve coordinated and written a Cabinet Office response to the National Audit Office, as well as brokering strategic relationships across Government (including the Cabinet Office and Home Office) on engaging Police Crime Commissioners with the principles of the Compact.
Some of the other work I’ve led on has included organising and chairing a cross-departmental meeting of Compact leads and Compact Voice. This Forum is helping to ensure that the Cabinet Office and Compact Voice maintain good relationships with Departments on Compact related policies.
A key part of my role is to work closely with Compact Voice to ensure that all Government departments are working within the spirit of the Compact, as well as to highlight opportunities for Compact Voice to feed into key Government initiatives such as the National Action Plan on Transparency which will be launched at the end of October.
Also I’m the point of contact for Compact Voice, if they wish to raise any issues or concerns that members have brought to their attention on actions by Government departments which they feel are not compliant with the Compact. I then take this up with the Compact lead at the department in question.
I have found the secondment so far to be a very positive experience, particularly for my professional development. For instance it has given me an insight into how central Government engages with, and supports, the voluntary and community sector as well as how Government works internally.
This builds on the experience I gained by participating in the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s ‘Day in the Life’ scheme when at Voluntary Action Lewisham. As part of the scheme I shadowed the policy lead for Youth Crime prevention at the Home Office. This consisted of visiting each other’s place of work for a day and meeting respective key colleagues and stakeholders.
I’m looking forward to the rest of my secondment, where I’ll be I’ll working closely with Compact Voice on delivering the joint action plan we’ve agreed with them and helping to further promote awareness of the Compact within Government.
One way I’m delivering this is by organising a training session for all Cabinet Office staff on 12th September where the Compact Voice Manager Tom Elkins will be doing a presentation.
Finally, I feel the value of my secondment will be a much better understanding of not only how Central Government works with the VCS nationally but the importance that the Compact plays both at a national and local level.
I will, as a result, refer more to some of the very useful tools and resources that Compact Voice produces, two of which I have already shared with my VAL colleagues such as working within the new Health landscape and the role of Healthwatch which VAL delivers for Lewisham.

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