The Compact did not solve the immediate problem, but produced a promise of change.
Tomorrow's People is a charitable trust that helps people out of long-term unemployment, welfare dependence or homelessness into employment and independence. One group the trust tries to help is people coming out of prison.
The charity found out about a tendering opportunity from Prison Service Plus 2, a funding stream provided through the National Offender Management Service (Noms) and the European Social Fund. The money was being released to offer services for people leaving prison. But between the time of the announcement and the briefing for voluntary organisations, the funding criteria were changed. When Steve Swan, national sales and development manager at Tomorrow's People, attended the briefing, he was concerned about the changes - particularly a cap on the percentage that could be spent on management fees. "My focus is on full cost recovery," Swan says.
"From my perspective, it seemed the funding had been cut."
Swan wrote to Noms to seek clarification but received answers to his queries only three days before the bid deadline. He requested an extension, but was told that the deadline remained.
Tomorrow's People sought legal advice and was told the Compact could lend weight to its arguments about the funding and the deadline. It was referred to the NCVO's Compact Advocacy Programme, which corresponded with Noms. As a result, Noms "acknowledged Tomorrow's People's position", according to Swan. But it did not extend the deadline or alter the criteria, and Tomorrow's People was unable to apply for the funding.
Noms has now promised to produce new guidelines that comply with a Compact provision saying applicants should be kept informed and "notifications of decisions need to be timely ... this should be at least three months for new programmes".
"I was pleasantly surprised," says Swan. "I knew of the Compact, but I didn't think it had any teeth. It has been signed up to at the highest level, and my feeling is it's there to help both the Government and the third sector. The onus is on us to point out breaches."