Charities minister promises 'an effective commissioning and funding environment'

A policy paper from the Minister for Civil Society, Baroness Barran, outlines how she intends to implement the government's Civil Society Strategy

Baroness Barran
Baroness Barran

The Minister for Civil Society has pledged to support the voluntary sector through an "effective commissioning and funding environment" as she looks to implement the government’s Civil Society Strategy.

Baroness Barran, who became charities minister at the end of July, said she had spent the past few weeks reviewing the 2018 strategy in discussion with charities and other stakeholders.

In a policy paper published on Friday, she said that in light of what she had heard from a range of civil society organisations she had decided to focus on three central themes:

  • Supporting the social sector through an effective commissioning and funding environment.
  • Building better connections between people in communities.
  • Ensuring all young people have opportunities to develop skills, networks and self-confidence.

On the first priority, she said the government would focus on areas including expanding the use of social value legislation in central government procurement, making use of social impact bonds through the £80m Life Chances Fund to encourage financial innovation through outcomes-based contracts, and setting up a new Social Enterprise Forum that would aim to develop a simpler relationship between the government and social enterprises.

Barran said the Civil Society Strategy, which was published in August last year, outlined a 10-year vision for how government could work with and support civil society organisations to improve lives and create a fairer society.

"Government alone cannot create social value and solve the complex challenges facing society," she said.

"But government can help to bring focus, unlock potential and – where possible – convene, catalyse and fund activity to support people within communities who, together, can make a real difference.

"The strategy is not intended as the final word or a fixed statement on government’s work in relation to civil society. On the contrary, it is the beginning of an ambitious, evolving work programme to help build a stronger society."

Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, said it was a good sign that the government acknowledged the need for a long-term sustainable and strategic approach to funding the sector.

"Small charities are under more pressure than ever and are being squeezed out of accessing funding because of the ever-larger rush for big contracting," he said. "Reforms to commissioning are badly needed and must ensure local supply chains include smaller organisations, which have much to offer. Social value is an important part of this, and we hope to see greater recognition of the distinctive value that small and local charities generate."

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