Government unveils three-year plan to strengthen the voluntary sector

The government is to reform the way it works with voluntary and
community organisations after a major cross-departmental review
found many were being hindered by barriers in the system.

With the help of £93m ear-marked in July’s spending review for
the Home Office’s Active Community Unit and £125m for the
voluntary and community sectors’ public service work, the
government has set out a plan to address the issues raised by the
review between now and April 2006.

It has pledged to properly fund the costs to the voluntary and
community sectors of providing services, encourage more long-term
contracts between the voluntary sector and local authorities and
promote wider use of their expertise.

Unveiling the review this week, Paul Boateng, chief secretary to
the Treasury and chairperson of the review’s ministerial steering
group, said its 42 recommendations provided a blueprint for
transforming the government’s relationship with the voluntary and
community sectors.

Its key theme is to develop strategies to strengthen the role the
voluntary sector plays in delivering public services at a local

Describing one-year contracts with local authorities as a waste of
resources, the government promised to flag up councils that have
moved to longer-term relationships with the voluntary and community
sectors. It will also develop guidance on the role of the voluntary
sector in local public service agreements.

A toolkit will enable local authorities to assess the involvement
of the voluntary sector in delivering services.

“We’re not underestimating the difficulty here,” Boateng said.
“Practice in central and local government hasn’t been up to scratch
and the reality on the ground has sometimes been disappointing.”

A senior official in each government department will “champion” the
1998 Compact agreement on relations between the government and the
voluntary and community sectors.

The government will also consider new financial freedoms for the
voluntary and community sectors and ensure the price for contracts
reflects the cost of providing services.

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