Compact in action: Compact Advocacy Programme

Its annual report shows local bodies are increasingly likely to commit Compact breaches.

The NCVO's Compact Advocacy Programme has helped hundreds of voluntary organisations in their battles with public bodies since it was established in 2002 to ensure "compliance with the Compact at a national and local level".

The programme employs four members of staff, thanks to £370,000 of funding over three years, most of it from the Big Lottery Fund. It has achieved some impressive results, such as helping Volunteering England get the Department for Work and Pensions to overturn a ruling on lunch expenses, and its caseload is growing rapidly. Its 2007 annual report, published last month, reveals that it investigated 80 Compact breaches, up from 26 in 2006.

The report gives great detail about who is breaching the Compact, which codes they're breaching and the trends. It says that local organisations were responsible for two-thirds of breaches; in 2005, national bodies accounted for two-thirds. National offenders are increasingly likely to be non-departmental public bodies, rather than government departments. That said, the Home Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families are the worst Whitehall offenders. And it suggests the Compact's failure to be felt beyond Westminster is the result of devolution or local authorities' shift away from grants to commissioning.

The funding and procurement code is the one most commonly breached, with 89 per cent of voluntary organisations claiming a breach citing it. The report is less forthcoming in explaining how successful the programme has been in helping charities overturn Compact breaches. It claims that "in every case that the programme has handled, there have been improvements in the relationship between the two sectors".

When asked how many organisations it represented had achieved what they set out to do, an NCVO spokeswoman said it would be unlikely to provide any clear-cut answers because there were no definitive winners and losers in most investigations. "We have achieved something positive out of almost every case, for individual organisations and the sector as a whole," she said.

The programme manager, Saskia Daggett, was unavailable to give more detail about outcomes.

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