Charity leader criticises Office for Civil Society over lack of feedback on consultations

Voluntary Sector North West chief executive Richard Caulfield says the sector will become disengaged if it feels the government is not listening

Richard Caulfield
Richard Caulfield

A charity chief executive has said he is "losing enthusiasm" for talking to the Office for Civil Society because it has failed to give feedback on consultation exercises.

Richard Caulfield, chief executive of the regional network Voluntary Sector North West, said he responded to the OCS consultations, Supporting a Stronger Civil Society and Modernising Commissioning, both of which closed in early January.

The department has since developed policies in response to both of these consultations, but no information has been made public about what the respondents said.

"We have lost a bit of enthusiasm for taking part in some conversations with the government," Caulfield said. "When people feel they are not being listened to, it makes them less willing to take part in our research events that inform our consultation responses. It means our responses are less inclusive."

He said charities had to rush to respond to the Modernising Commissioning consultation because it was only open for 17 working days over Christmas and the New Year.

The OCS said at the time the short time frame was necessary so the responses could feed into the public services reform white paper, which was subsequently delayed until July.

Caulfield told Third Sector he thought Nick Hurd, the Minister for Civil Society, had made an impressive effort to meet people who worked in the sector, but that this was not a fair way of making sure charities were listened to. "It means that those who manage to get in front of him are the ones that are listened to," he said.

In a blog for Third Sector today, Caulfield writes: "Unfortunately I have nothing to evidence that the OCS is listening when policy and programmes are announced without feedback.

"This makes it hard to enthuse the sector to engage with the new listening exercise on the open public services reform white paper, because it is more cynical than ever."

The Cabinet Office issued a statement that said: "The Modernising Commissioning Green Paper was designed to inform the Open Public Services White Paper. Nick Hurd acknowledged responses to the green paper.

"The launch of the Transforming Local Infrastructure programme made clear how we had used the responses to the Supporting a Stronger Civil Society consultation."

- Read Caulfield's blog for Third Sector

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