Bring an end to 'nonsultation', Directory of Social Change tells government

In its response to the government's consultation on its civil society strategy, the training charity says too many consultations seek opinions on issues that have already been decided

An end to "nonsultation" and reform of a commissioning regime that "suffocates" charities should be key goals in the government's forthcoming civil society strategy, according to the Directory of Social Change.

The recommendations are contained in the training and publishing charity’s 17-page submission to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s consultation on its forthcoming civil society strategy.

The submission to the consultation, which closed yesterday, urges government to stop seeking opinions on issues that have already been decided – a process it describes as "nonsultation".

It says: "Failing to genuinely consult civil society will lead to less informed, less effective government policy."

Inflexible contracts with unrealistic terms and conditions and a shortage of grants make commissioning reform necessary, the DSC adds.

"We have a commissioning regime for public services which suffocates charities," its submission says.

Other recommendations include reform of the lobbying act, an increase in the Charity Commission's budget and a ban on gagging clauses in contracts.

"It appears that government policies, actions and messages towards the sector are overwhelmingly negative and disproportionate, and underestimate how critical they are to UK public services and citizens in general," write Jay Kennedy, the DSC’s director of policy and research, and Daniel Ferrell-Schweppenstedde, its policy and public affairs manager, in a joint blog post.

"Charities should not be treated as if they are the enemy," they say. "They’re interwoven with the public. Good regulation already exists – we don’t need more."

In a separate contribution to the consultation, the think tank NPC says Charity Commission regulation should encourage charities to focus on impact rather than survival.

It calls for the government to support the creation of "an improvement body" run by the sector to take on this role.

Nathan Yeowell, head of policy at NPC, said the government had not taken civil society seriously since "the crash-landing of the big society".

Welcoming the consultation, he said: "It’s a chance to paint a picture of the kind of society the government is trying to create – and to take some radical steps."

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