So how is Government doing on the Compact?
Recently, the National Audit Office published their long awaited report on how central government is implementing the Compact. It’s certainly interesting reading - containing some things we had expected, as well as some surprises - and it sends a clear message both to the government and the sector that more needs to be done to ensure stronger implementation of the Compact.
This is something that is echoed by Compact Voice and our members – there needs to be stronger, more visible leadership for the Compact to flourish. Our chair Simon Blake has called for this from OCS in particular, a message he will be repeating at a meeting on this report in Parliament this week.
One of the positive aspects about this report is that it will provide opportunities for both Compact Voice and OCS to work more closely with government departments. But it remains concerning that the NAO have found little to suggest that departments will be ready to properly embed the Compact into their business plans this year.
Compact Voice has recently emailed all government departments with an open offer to help them better embed Compact principles into their activities. We have experience in this, having delivered a number of successful joint activities with various departments, often helping to Compact-proof policies and publications before they are made widely available - a significant contribution that isn’t always publicly visible, and one of the many ways we are working to strengthen the Compact.
Rather than gloomily thinking the report doesn’t mean departments will do anything as some have said, we see it as a key to help open doors that might otherwise have been closed. Certainly the response to the report from many in government has suggested that it will result in significant activity.
Other negative responses to this report have also suggested that Compact Voice’s lack of resources means that we won’t be as effective as needed to help improve departmental activities. It is true that we have limited capacity, but having looked at all of our activities over the last twelve months as we plan to compile our annual Impact Report, it becomes clear that we have made significant progress in improving the way the Compact is used and perceived both centrally and locally.
Our local activities have increased considerably, and we are now engaging with and supporting more groups than ever before. In the last three months alone, for example, we provided one on one support to 57 unique areas in England. There are numerous examples of success and support for the Compact to reassure even the most sceptical naysayers that it is and remains a Good Thing.
The Compact has survived changes in government, new policy landscapes and different partners coming and going, yet support for its principles remains strong. We are undoubtedly in a period of change, and for many the policy landscape has been imperfect and tumultuous, with challenges threatening how organisations operate and what they do.
The Compact hasn’t always helped organisations successfully navigate this landscape, but we do know that it has achieved a lot. To focus on what-has-not rather than what-has may come across as demoralising and undermining to the achievements, successes, and hard work of those who continue to support and benefit from the Compact. There are enough positive examples and strong feelings to feel reassured about its continued relevance.
And so while the report highlights that more needs to be done, the fact that so many remain committed and receptive to achieving these goals is welcome news indeed.