Charities condemn failure to create skills development body for sector

A leading voluntary umbrella body has attacked a decision not to
create an organisation to develop the sector’s skills.

It warned the decision could “drive a stake through the heart of
the government’s plans to reform public services with help from
voluntary organisations”.

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for
Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), said the decision by the Sector
Skills Development Agency (SSDA) had shown “blatant disregard for
the compact”.

He has written to the agency, which was set up by the Department
for Education and Skills, expressing disappointment both at the
decision and the move to cease funding for the NCVO-based Voluntary
Sector National Training Organisation.

The voluntary training body is the UK’s only organisation taking a
strategic approach to building skills in the sector, on the
understanding that it would eventually be replaced by a strategic
skills body.

It has been heavily involved in government plans to increase the
voluntary sector’s involvement in public services, and has
developed a strategy for the government’s active community unit’s
infrastructure review. Over the past 18 months, it has had
emergency funding from the SSDA.

Etherington said: “We cannot allow this quango with its blatant
disregard for the compact and ignorance of the nature of the UK
voluntary sector to undermine the thousands of charities and
community organisations working out there.”

He added: “The government must intervene and support the creation
of a strategic body to develop skills in the sector, unless it
wishes to be seen as having been paying the voluntary sector lip
service all along.”

A poll by think-tank Demos last year found that nine out of 10
employers supported the establishment of a strategic body to
address skills needs in the sector and felt it would help recruit
and retain staff.

An SSDA spokesperson said it was concerned that the NCVO had served
redundancy notices despite having been offered short-term funding
for the voluntary training body. She added that the government had
made it clear sector skills councils were for industry and business
sectors only.

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