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Big Society strategy for charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises - Consultation and Press Release

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kevin
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A strategy to support charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises was unveiled by Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society today. It is the first step towards helping civil society organisations grasp new opportunities arising from the massive devolution of power to local communities and reform of public services that underpins the Big Society.

http://www.strongercivilsociety.org.uk/<

Also refer http://benefits.tcell.org.uk/forums/office-civil-society-consultation-im...< and http://benefits.tcell.org.uk/forums/modernising-commissioning-increasing...<

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The government must do more to recognise the value of small disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) as it develops its plans for a “Big Society”, according to an alliance of disability organisations.

Disability LIB, which provides support to help DPOs boost their performance, says the government must also ensure that its Big Society initiatives are inclusive and accessible to disabled people and their organisations.

Disability LIB was responding to a consultation from the government’s Office for Civil Society on how it should fund advice and support for charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups in England.  

Stephen Lee Hodgkins, director of Disability LIB, said the government must ensure that DPOs can compete with other organisations bidding to run public services – a key part of the coalition government’s Big Society agenda.

He said: “The DPO sector is quite small. The government needs to pay attention to how small local organisations are supported.

“A lot of them are facing closure and having their capacity knocked out of them – a lot of them are working hand-to-mouth.

“The cuts will devastate the sector unless these opportunities are made much easier for groups of disabled people.”
In its consultation response, Disability LIB says the government must recognise DPOs’ need for “core funding”, rather than just finance for particular projects, and it calls for incentives for large disability charities to work with DPOs.

Hodgkins said the Big Society programme – including the new public services (social enterprise and social value) bill – provided opportunities for DPOs to further their independent living and personalisation agenda.

But he said there was also a risk that smaller user-led groups would not be heard and their value would be ignored.
And he called on the government to invest in research that would prove that DPOs “added value” in areas such as equality, reducing isolation and promoting inclusion.

Disability LIB also calls in its response to the consultation for more focus on supporting existing DPOs, rather than replacing them with new user-led organisations set up from scratch.
There have been concerns that the harsh financial climate – and the previous government’s demand for there to be a user-led centre for independent living in every area by 2010 – has led to a string of established DPOs being forced to fold, often to be replaced by new user-led groups and consortiums.

Disability LIB told the government that it was “important in the future to build upon the expertise and knowledge of organizations which already exist and build their capacity and encourage their collaboration with others, rather than creating something from scratch”. 

http://www.dls.org.uk/rights/News/2011/January/8.html<

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kevin
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New Report Identifies Changes Needed to Support Big Society

A study by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) has revealed that people are willing to contribute to their communities but need the right opportunities.

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Civic Commons: a model for social action' found that people were not given the chance to use their skills, knowledge and ideas to participate in social action, and that creating these opportunities could save public spending, encourage innovative approaches to social problems and promote participation in the Big Society.

The report recommends combining traditional consultation models with training to help citizens develop the skills and confidence to carry out their ideas for social change, and refers to a current case study in Peterborough.

The Civic Commons initiative, part of the RSA’s Citizen Power programme, currently enlists twenty five local residents who have received advocacy training and been involved in a policy forum with local police chiefs and influential thinkers.

They are now establishing four citizen-led interventions to address anti-social behaviour in the community.

Report co-author Emma Norris said:

“We hope that this report will highlight the positive contributions citizens can make to their communities when given the right opportunities and support.

“As the Big Society agenda moves forward, it is crucial that we support all citizens – making sure that no-one is left behind and that everyone has an opportunity to contribute and have their skills, ideas and needs acknowledged.”

To view the full report please click here< (opens in new window).

http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/newsview.aspx?RF=NEWS&WCU=DSCODE%3dOTSS...<

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Prime Minister David Cameron has revealed that the £200 million promised to the Big Society Bank from high street banks will be provided on a commercial lending basis, earning them profit.

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The proposal forms part of the banking sector reforms package known as Project Merlin, which also promises to increase banks’ lending commitment from £179 billion to £190 billion this year, almost exclusively to small and medium enterprises.

The news was positively received by NCVO, ACEVO, CFDG and the Social Investment Business but has attracted criticism from community charity Urban Forum, whose chief executive Toby Blume said:

“The £200 million is being lent on a commercial basis, so banks will make a profit. How does it differ from their normal lending to the voluntary sector?”

However NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington said the announcement was “a good start which demonstrates that the government is listening to the sector’s concerns about the challenges ahead” but also warned that:

“The success of the Bank will also rely on securing sufficient additional private capital, above the amounts available from unclaimed assets, and on the levels of financial capability and investment readiness in the voluntary and community sector.”

http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/newsview.aspx?RF=NEWS&WCU=DSCODE%3dOTSS...<

and refer http://www.fundingcentral.org.uk/newsview.aspx?RF=NEWS&WCU=DSCODE%3dOTSS...<

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kevin
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The Big Society is dead strangled at birth by a government that failed to recognise that cutting local authority budgets would lead in turn to cuts in grants to voluntary groups, writes Blair McPherson.

At first it was just naive government not to understand how financially dependent small local voluntary groups and community groups were on grants from local authorities.

Maybe some in government really believed their own rhetoric about efficiencies and cutting back office cost but now it appears to be bloody minded ideological dogma.

By now they have the figures they know that local authorities are the most efficient part of the public sector, they know cutting management posts by as much as 25 per cent and combining finance, HR and IT departments across organisations will only save a fraction of the money that is needed.

A medium size authority cuts £10m from its management costs but needs to find savings of £150m over the next three years. What do they do? They close half their libraries, they close day centres for people with a learning disability, they reduce home help support to older people, they sell off the new leisure centre and they increase charges for cremation and burial.

Naturally they want to minimise these deeply unpopular decisions, to offer some protection to their vulnerable citizens, so they reduce or remove grants to voluntary and community groups. The trouble is small voluntary groups exists on small grants – take them away or even reduce them and they can't meet even their modest over heads, the hirer of the hall, the telephone bill, volunteers expenses, the salary of their only full time member of staff, the cost of getting the minibus through its MOT.

Large voluntary organisations have been for some time replacing vulnerable annual grants with service level agreements, in effect contacts for taking over services which otherwise would be provided by the local authority. They can do this cheaper than the local authority if the pay their staff less, offer less generous holidays, sick pay and pensions.

So in this sense despite the harsh financial climate the voluntary sector will survive but it will not be the small local voluntary, community and faith groups – it will be the big voluntary organisations who will have a secure future providing services that were previously provided by the local authority. Which of course may be what was intended all along.

Blair McPherson is author of 'Equipping Managers for an Uncertain Future' published by www.russellhouse.co.uk

http://www.publicservice.co.uk/feature_story.asp?id=15910<

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We have now sent out our response to the government's Giving Green Paper< (PDF, 90KB).  The Paper, which was published at the end of last year, explores how everyone can play their part in building on and stimulating greater levels of giving and participation in the UK.

In our response, we reiterate the importance of establishing a 'Better Asking' Campaign to improve the quality of fundraising, promote the work of voluntary and community organisations and develop innovative forms of 'asking' people to give their time and money to voluntary organisations. We also stress that government policy needs to remain consistent and complementary, with giving seen as part of a wider solution for safeguarding the sector's funding for the future.

The response recommends that the government needs to address barriers to participation amongst currently underrepresented and excluded groups, including young people and people in lower socio-economic groups.  To achieve this, the government should focus not just on removing these barriers, but also taking steps to positively build participation from all parts of the community.

Download our full response< (PDF, 90KB)

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/news/funding/our-response-giving-green-paper<

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Charities Bill information

Information on the Charities Bill consultation including the summary of responses on the draft Bill.

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Charities Consolidation Bill: Summary of Consultation Responses on the draft Bill and draft Pre-Consolidation Amendments Order<
File type: PDF - Portable Document format | File size: 69.03 kB<
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Outline proposal for a Big Society Bank presented by the Independent Advisers, Sir Ronald Cohen and Nick O’Donohoe and a letter from Francis Maude endorsing the proposals.

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Big Society Bank - outline proposal<
File type: PDF - Portable Document format | File size: 381.50 kB<
Letter from Francis Maude endorsing proposals for a Big Society Bank<
File type: PDF - Portable Document format | File size: 140.33 kB<
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Report and accompanying press release of the Independent Task Force established to consider how to cut red tape for small charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises.

Downloads

Press release - Red Tape Task Force calls for clearer legal protection for volunteers<
File type: PDF - Portable Document format | File size: 349.61 kB<
Unshackling Good Neighbours - Report on how to cut red tape for small charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises<
File type: PDF - Portable Document format | File size: 4.69 MB<
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Last October’s announcement of large scale cuts to public spending left voluntary sector organisations (VCOs) awaiting confirmation of how their funding would be affected. As the majority of their statutory funding is channelled through local government, at the time of the Spending Review, we at NCVO said that it was likely that some organisations would come under significant pressure. To try and alleviate such a strain on the sector, NCVO pushed for the adoption of good practice by councils and urged local authorities not to pass on disproportionate cuts to VCOs.

To this end, we wrote a joint letter with ACEVO and NAVCA addressed to all local authorities. As well as the request for good practice, it asked them to talk to VCOs at an early stage and to also indicate if cuts had been met with positive action. In a matter of weeks we received 94 responses, which equates to around 27% of both district and county councils. In line with one of NCVO’s core beliefs that local authorities are often best placed to make decisions about their local area, we were encouraged to see that the stream of responses had an overwhelmingly positive tone. Yes, difficult decisions had been taken and no, there won’t be as much money as before; but the innovative approach that councils have already started to take in the face of deep and speedy budget cuts does seem to offer a glimmer of light at the end of the deficit tunnel.

To support this optimistic statement, a few top-line results might be of interest here. Of the 94 authorities that responded:
• 45% said that they were protecting their VCS budgets for 2010/11 and
• A further 6% indicated that they have actually increased their budgets for the sector.
In line with the Compact, 3 months seemed to be the accepted minimum notice period and 14% of councils said that they planned to give 6, 12 or even 18 months notice.

Perhaps the responses of most interest were those that detailed new initiatives and partnerships, which have been formulated to ease the impact of the cuts:

• An impressive 84% of local authorities outlined how they already work in partnership with their local VCS, through VCS forums or through more official channels, such as Local Strategic Partnerships;
• 50% of councils outlined new initiatives that they have put in place to help VCOs at this uncertain time and
• A simple measure taken by 12% of authorities has been to offer ‘in-kind’ support to their local VCS, such as sharing offices and ICT resources.

In terms of new initiatives:

• 30% of local authorities created New Grant Funds, One-off Grants or Transition Funds to help VCOs adapt to the shift in funding arrangements;
• A further 10% established new projects to support engagement in their area, such as think tanks, participatory budgeting, active community projects and county-specific Big Society agendas.

Regrettably, difficulties were mentioned by 16% of the respondents, which tended to centre on the often incongruous nature of central and local government funding arrangements. Admittedly this statistic may be much larger if the councils that are yet to reply to our letter are taken into consideration.

However, to end on a more positive note, what these results clearly indicate is that councils have had the foresight to anticipate and prepare for the cuts. In the cases where VCS budgets have unfortunately not been protected, local authorities have detailed how they are supporting the sector in more innovative ways. Almost all of these councils have assured us that disproportionate cuts have not been passed onto voluntary organisations.

This snapshot of how cuts at central government have been carefully handled by local authorities shows both the resilience of local decision-makers and the value that they attribute to the voluntary sector. This relationship is perhaps more vital than ever now that the implications of the Government’s Big Society agenda are beginning to take shape.

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/blogs/18452/11/05/17/h...<

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What does central government think it spends on the voluntary sector?

Today saw the release of the Government's updated Departmental Business Plans<, which show progress against the objectives that government has set itself, and its plans for the coming year.

One interesting part of the plans from my point of view is that departments are required to show how much they have spent on the voluntary sector in the 2009/10 financial year. One of our key research aims is finding out what the government spends on the sector, so this kind of data can help to do that.

Unfortunately, we often find that government doesn't know what it spends on the sector. Charities and other sector organisations are sometimes not separately identified in their accounting systems, and so producing the required data can be difficult. The former Office of the Third Sector, and the Home Office Active Communities Unit before it, attempted to plug this gap with a survey of departments<, but even this report contained only partial data (despite the hard work of Ian Mocroft, who compiled the report).

The business plans show that while some departments know what they spend, others don't. I've extracted the data from the business plan PDFs and present it in the table below.

I've (slightly subjectively!) rated each department from Gold to Bronze depending on the quality of the information - departments with no information at all do not make the medals! Let's hope that next year they all meet the gold standard.

Department Spend with VCS
(Contracts)
Grants to VCS  
Cabinet Office 7.7 234.6 Gold
Communities and Local Government 78.2 73.2 Gold
HMRC 0.2 2.0 Gold
HM Treasury 0.3 0.0 Gold
Dept for Education 39.7 177.5 Silver
Dept for International Development 35.6 594.4 Silver
Dept for Work and Pensions 305.0 82.0 Silver
Dept for Energy and Climate Change n/a 17.1 Bronze
Dept for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 16.0 n/a Bronze
Dept for Transport 4.9 n/a Bronze
Ministry of Defence 151.0 n/a Bronze
Ministry of Justice 39.5 n/a Bronze
Home Office n/a 56.9 Bronze
Foreign and Commonwealth Office n/a n/a Did not medal
Dept for Business, Innovation and Skils n/a n/a Did not medal
Dept for Culture, Media and Sport n/a n/a Did not medal
Dept of Health n/a n/a Did not medal

I've put all the data up as a Google spreadsheet<, including the notes made to justify not including a figure - so can judge each department for yourself!

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/blogs/116/11/05/13/wha...<

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Today the Government has published its long-awaited White Paper on Giving (PDF 2.32 MB).

The White Paper announces a range of measures designed to encourage the giving of both time and money and includes:

  • a Social Action Fund and Challenge Prizes around volunteering
  • a Giving Summit in late autumn 2011
  • £30m for a Local Infrastructure Fund in order to encourage more effective support for frontline civil society organisations
  • a year-long national payroll giving campaign.

The White Paper also states that there will be a consultation on the Inheritance Tax proposals announced in the Budget before the summer.

Speaking at the launch, David Cameron said the White Paper 'sets out how we are going to encourage a stronger culture of giving in Britain with more people giving more money and more time to good causes around us'.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, said:

‘The giving of time and money is an important expression of our values and beliefs as a society. This paper draws together a wealth of intelligence on what can be done to stimulate greater levels of giving and participation in the UK.

‘It is encouraging that the government has considered a range of innovative and varied approaches to remove barriers to the giving of time and money and targeting underrepresented groups.  The Government’s ideas around leading by example – encouraging Ministers and Civil Servants to volunteer and opening up the government estate and websites - are also very positive.

‘We are pleased to see that our Funding Commission’s recommendations for an infrastructure fund have been taken on board.  Local support organisations play an essential role in developing the skills, capacity and knowledge of frontline organisations, so this fund will help them to adapt and modernise to best cater for their needs.  Establishing a central online resource bank will also make it easier for frontline organisations to access useful information and resources.

‘The proposal to prioritise impact reporting is also very promising; this echoes our Funding Commission’s first recommendation and will be key to building a sustainable voluntary sector.

‘Despite the difficult financial climate more than half of the population still give to charity every month – this shows the high levels of public trust and confidence that charities enjoy and represents a good base to build on.  We look forward to working in partnership with the Government and the sector to take this activity forward as we work towards the Giving Summit in the Autumn, and hope that it will help to bring about a culture shift in giving and social action.’

The Prime Minister's full speech on the Big Society, including his thoughts on the Giving White Paper, is available on the Number 10 website.

http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/news/civil-society/government-publishes-white...

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/giving-white-paper

http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/news/giving-white-paper-%E2%80%93-making...

 

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