Compact in action

The codes of good practice face an uncertain future, says John Plummer


The future of the five codes of good practice that underpin the Compact might be uncertain, but the Commission for the Compact is pressing ahead with plans to research their effectiveness.

Last year, the commission paid human rights barrister Karon Monaghan £15,000 to consider how recent changes in the law had affected the black and minority ethnic groups code. It is now considering bids to conduct research, worth £5,000 each, on the relevance of the volunteering and community groups codes. The volunteering code was last updated in 2005, and the community groups code has not been revised since 2003.

The research will study the impact on the codes of recent developments, such as changes to the structure of local government and the creation of the Office of the Third Sector, and recommend ways of bringing them up to date.

After last year's Compact debate, Sir Bert Massie, Commissioner for the Compact, recommended creating a single, rewritten document containing the Compact and its codes. Andy Forster, head of policy at the commission, said the research into the codes was still necessary because the decision to create a single document had not yet been taken and, even if it was, the codes could be retained as separate chapters within it.

"We felt it was still important to do this as part of our ongoing dialogue with the sector," says Forster.

However, the funding and procurement and the consultation and policy appraisal codes will not be reviewed. It is widely accepted that the former needs revising to reflect the increase in commissioning, and the Cabinet Office recently looked into the latter. "We're also mindful of the fatigue people feel about being consulted all the time," says Forster.

He says future commission research is likely to focus more on such issues as how the Compact could be used to alleviate the effects of the recession.The Commission for the Compact intends to research the effectiveness of the codes, despite the uncertainty of their future.

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