A Commission for the Compact-funded report has revealed big inconsistencies in the way different government departments deal with the voluntary sector.
The research looked at how well the Compact, which lays out guidelines on the relationship between the state and the third sector, had been implemented within eight central government departments. It also investigated fears over charities’ campaigning independence being compromised by increased government funding for the sector.
It was found that 84% of civil servants across the eight departments said their ministry supported the sector’s “right to campaign and to challenge”, with just 3% reporting their department was not supportive.
However, 28% said that although their department partly recognised the independence of the third sector, this was not always translated into action where funding was concerned.
Twenty eight per cent of respondents also said that awareness of the Compact within their department was “poor”. In addition, only 56% were aware of the existence of third sector liaison officers within their department and just 44% were aware of strategic partnerships with third sector organisations.
The report said that despite the establishment of the cross-cutting Office of the Third Sector in 2006, there was still a need to increase the “depth and breadth of awareness” of the Compact to ensure a greater consistency within and across government departments.
In a department-by-department analysis, some fared better than others. The Department of Health was singled out for praise for its programme, announced this year, to set up a series of third sector “strategic partners” to act as a bridge between charities and the DH.
The report recommended that departments share best practice across third sector networks and called for an increase in third sector commissioning training for civil servants.