The Cabinet Office has beefed up its support for the voluntary sector by adding an extra section to its procurement pledge, which establishes a set of principles for the government when procuring services.
It was criticised when it was first published by sector bodies including the local infrastructure body Navca and Compact Voice, which represents voluntary sector organisations on the Compact, for being too focused on large organisations and not containing any mention of the voluntary sector.
It has now been updated to contain an extra section, specifically focusing on "what the procurement pledge means for civil society organisations".
The pledge now says that the government is "strongly committed" to the principles of the Compact and says that every government body is expected to follow its principles, including on procurement matters.
The Compact, the agreement between central and local government about how public and voluntary sectors should treat each other, includes a section that says voluntary sector organisations should have "a greater role and more opportunities in delivering public services".
It also says that public bodies should ensure all bodies that distribute funds on the government’s behalf, including prime contractors, should adhere to the Compact commitments.
Simon Blake, chair of Compact Voice, said: "We are delighted that the government’s commitment to Compact principles has now been explicitly linked to the procurement pledge. These changes also clarify the important role of the voluntary sector, which is a key player in the potential provision of services."
Robert Beard, a policy adviser at Navca, said that the new guidance was a "considerable improvement".
"It’s already part of the government’s statutory guidance that councils must follow local compacts," he said. "We feel that central government could hardly ask them to do so without making it clear that it planned to do so as well."