Focus: Policy and Politics - Alliance set to target policy-makers

A Conservative think tank has teamed up with voluntary groups. Francois Le Goff reports.

The Centre for Social Justice has formed an alliance with 30 voluntary organisations that will advise political parties on policy-making for poverty reduction.

The alliance is made up of innovative organisations such as the Centre for Adolescent Rehabilitation, Birmingham-based community project Black Boys Can and the Bristol Community Family Trust. It will host sessions at which members will meet policy-makers to find solutions to problems ranging from homelessness to drug addiction.

"We wanted policy to be informed by those on the ground, solving today's problems," said Philippa Stroud, who oversees the Centre for Social Justice Alliance.

Although sessions will be open to politicians from all parties, the alliance is likely to be used by the Conservatives as a tool to build closer links with the voluntary sector. The Centre for Social Justice think tank is chaired and was founded by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The alliance will also provide a forum where successful local projects can meet and discuss how to expand their work to national level.

Shadow education secretary David Cameron, speaking at the launch last week, said: "Is gun crime an issue only in Birmingham? Of course not, so let's see Mothers Against Guns going national."

He argued that politicians must trust the voluntary sector. "We haven't even begun to harness the potential of the social sector as a true partner for social action," he said.

The Kaleidoscope Project, a charity that was visited recently by the Centre for Social Justice, welcomed Cameron's endorsement of the sector.

"In north Wales the NHS provides a drug detox service at more than twice the price of what we would charge, and still it is not opening the market to better and cheaper providers," said Martin Blakebrough, the charity's chief executive. "There is no support for us to develop that way. The only people who are listening to us are the Conservatives, which is hard for a Liberal Democrat councillor like me to say."

The Centre for Social Justice hopes organisations such as the Kaleidoscope Project will join the alliance. Many members are organisations the think tank has met through the awards it ran in June. All those shortlisted were invited to join.

francois.legoff@haynet.com

KEY POINTS

- The Centre for Social Justice has formed an alliance with 30 voluntary organisations

- The alliance aims to inform political parties on policy-making for poverty reduction

- The alliance is likely to be used by the Conservative Party in order to build closer links with the voluntary sector

- It will also provide a forum at which successful local projects can discuss how to expand their work to a national level.

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