Charity leaders dismayed as civil society ministerial brief still unclear after government reshuffle

Voluntary sector experts express frustration as Nigel Adams seemingly takes on digital and sport portfolio from Mims Davies

Nigel Adams is the the Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty
Nigel Adams is the the Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty

Senior voluntary sector figures have expressed frustration at civil society once again being "near the very end of the queue" after a government reshuffle.

Boris Johnson was named Prime Minister on Tuesday and, three days later, the status of the civil society ministerial brief remains unclear.

According to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport website, Mims Davies remains Minister for Sport and Civil Society, a role she took on in November when she succeeded Tracey Crouch.

But Davies yesterday congratulated Nigel Adams, the Conservative MP for Selby and Ainsty, after he tweeted that he had been appointed Minister for Digital and Sport.

"It was a dream come true for me to cover sport and I know [it] is absolutely yours too," Davies tweeted.

But Davies did not respond to replies, including one from Jane Ide, chief executive of the local infrastructure body Navca, asking whether she had retained her charities brief.

The DCMS was also unable to provide an answer today after being asked for confirmation by Third Sector.

This leaves the charitable sector uncertain of the identity of the civil society minister. And it is unknown whether the role will be combined with other duties or will return to a stand-alone ministerial position.

"It’s pathetic that once again the civil society brief is near the very end of the queue – or even completely forgotten – in the reshuffle," said Jay Kennedy, director of policy and research at the Directory of Social Change.

"Millions of volunteers, trustees and charity beneficiaries deserve better."

In addition to civil society and sport, the DCMS website lists Davies' responsibilities as gambling, horseracing, youth policy, the National Lottery and society lotteries, plus cross-government work on loneliness.

Vicky Browning, chief executive of Acevo, the membership organisation for charity leaders, said Davies was the third civil society minister she had dealt with in less than three years.

"It would be good to keep her at least a bit longer to deliver on the Civil Society Strategy that Tracey Crouch kicked off," said Browning.

"It’s hard to get much traction when the revolving door spins this quickly."

Civil society ministers are often among the last to be appointed after reshuffles.

"There’s a strong sense of déjà vu in this – civil society being left in the dark about who’s got the brief," said Browning.

"But if Nigel Adams’ appointment as Minister for Digital and Sport means that the civil society portfolio will no longer be split across charities and sport, that’s good news.

"Given its value to our communities, our economy and our country, we want our sector to get the right level of attention and profile. Having a whole minister to ourselves would be a positive step."

However, Andrew O’Brien, director of external affairs at Social Enterprise UK, said social enterprises would "welcome" the end of the civil society brief and the opportunity to work with DCMS to grow the sector. 

"The end of the civil society brief would not be mourned by social enterprises," he said.

"For charities, this brief has been relegated consistently over several years. Charities have been too inward facing and haven’t made a political case for why they are central to the future of the country.

"This lack of confidence has seen politicians ignore charities. They need to get back on the front foot and insert themselves into big debates about the future of the country."

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