Comment: We'd appreciate a little consultation

It's now more than a week since the Queen delivered her gracious speech to the Houses of Parliament.

John Knight
John Knight

Sitting on the throne, she set out the Government's work programme for the year ahead. There were few surprises because, in a break with tradition, Gordon Brown had largely set out his vision for the year by telling us last summer what was likely to be in the speech.

Quite a few bills were mentioned that will have an impact on our sector and our beneficiaries, including the Health and Social Care Bill, the Local Transport Bill and the Pensions Bill.

One bill that caught my eye, and which could have important consequences for the whole sector, is the not-so-snappily named Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill (formerly the Unclaimed Assets Bill). The bill aims to distribute funds from dormant accounts to the community and, specifically, youth services (Third Sector Online, 15 November).

Earlier this year, the Government engaged in a consultation about the best way to distribute the revenue from dormant accounts. However, it seemed to have skipped a step by not consulting directly with the sector about where the revenue from the dormant accounts would best be spent. During the children and young persons review in 2006, the Government consulted the sector on priorities for unclaimed assets. However, the focus on young people had clearly already been decided. Yet again, I am forced to draw attention to the Government's lack of compliance with the spirit of the Compact.

I believe that the revenue from the dormant accounts would be well spent on youth services in the community, but I am sure that the sector would have appreciated more consultation on the decision. Other areas of voluntary sector service delivery, such as mental health services, older people's services and disability services, would also benefit from further investment from the revenue.

The bid to use unclaimed assets for wider social benefit is bold and makes sense. But yet again the relationship between the state and the sector needs further attention.

- John Knight is head of policy and campaigns at Leonard Cheshire Disability: jk.thirdsector@googlemail.com.

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