Civil Society Minister emphasises importance of Compact compliance across government

Today, the Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP, has written to all government departments emphasising the importance of Compact-compliant consultations, sending them Compact Voice’s ‘Meaningful Engagement’ briefing. This sets out how consultations should be delivered to ensure that engagement has the most positive impact and contribution to the design and development of policies and services.  Compact Voice drafted this guidance following engagement with the voluntary and community sector.

The Minister’s letter follows the report from the National Audit Office published in January 2012 which contained a number of positive recommendations about how best the Compact can be used across government.  The report also highlighted that many recent government consultations had not followed Compact principles.

No. 10 has recently issued clear guidance that the Compact is an integral part of government’s decision making processes, strengthening it by establishing it as one of only six cross-departmental priorities which need to be considered during the development of business plans. Compact Voice has also met regularly with the Office for Civil Society (OCS) and are working with them and other government departments to help ensure they embed Compact principles into their future activities.

We have also begun the process of agreeing joint activities between Compact Voice and OCS to clarify the role that both organisations have in ensuring the Compact is used both nationally and locally. This has included agreeing monitoring and promotional activities, identifying specific activities for departments and their senior responsible officers, and promoting ways in which OCS can challenge non-Compact compliance in other departments. Both OCS and Compact Voice have clearly defined roles in delivering these activities. When finalised, this action plan will be made publicly available, enabling both sectors to understand how the Compact is being taken forward.

Following the publication of the report in January, Simon Blake, Chair of Compact Voice, stated that the inquiry highlighted the importance of leadership from central government, noting that government’s support for the Compact affected the ways that local Compacts were championed. Compact Voice will continue to push to ensure that this leadership is strengthened. We are committed to working positively with OCS and with government both centrally and locally and will continue to both help and encourage government to show leadership and support for the Compact.

In the context of these clear commitments from central government and OCS, Compact Voice is surprised that an article in ‘Third Sector’ suggests that OCS had made efforts to reduce its role in supporting the Compact across government. The article which has made public correspondence between the Office for Civil Society and the National Audit Office specifically about the recent investigation into implementation of the Compact across government, and prior to its publication.

Tom Elkins, Compact Voice Manager said: “We are surprised by this article, as our work with OCS has suggested that OCS and Cabinet Office have taken both the recommendations and the criticisms in the report seriously, including the recommendation that it needs to “set out its role with regard to supporting departments and for identifying good practice”.  Our engagement with OCS since the report has been published certainly suggests that significant progress is being made. However, we will be contacting the Minister for Civil Society to discuss what implications the reported correspondence has on our joint activities, but remain committed to the shared principles of partnership working that Compact Voice, OCS, and the NAO report have all suggested are of significant importance.”

OCS have provided 'Third Sector' with a statement in response to the article. The full statement says:

“The Cabinet Office asked the National Audit Office to examine how the National Compact has been implemented by central Government departments and it’s clear from these findings that the Compact is being taken seriously across Whitehall. We will continue to ensure the Compact is implemented in a transparent and accountable way across departments on matters relating to the civil society sector. However, it is each Department’s responsibility to ensure adherence to the Compact and each has received guidance on including the Compact in their refreshed business plans for 2012.

OCS remains fully committed to the effective implementation of the Compact across Government.  The Minister for Civil Society will shortly write to Secretaries of State across Government to reiterate the importance of the Compact and to urge them to implement the findings of the recent NAO report in their Departments.  The inclusion of the Compact as one of only six cross-cutting priorities in Departmental business plans further reinforces the importance of the Compact to the Cabinet Office and the Government.

The Cabinet Office will continue to ensure the Compact is implemented in a transparent and accountable way across departments on matters relating to the civil society sector. The Cabinet Office will continue to have working-level networks (i.e. the departmental civil society contacts) through which to engage with departments on matters relating to the civil society sector including the operation of the Compact civil society liaison officers. However, it is each department’s responsibility to ensure adherence to the Compact."


Letter to government departments from the Minister for Civil Society (PDF)443.97 KB
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