Compact in action: The Department of Health

The department introduced a new investment programme with input from charities to replace its Section 64 grants scheme.

Two years ago, the prospect of the Department of Health winning a Compact award seemed as fanciful as Portsmouth winning the FA Cup.

The department was threatened with legal action in 2006 for delaying a funding decision that affected the charities that were delivering its £17.2m Section 64 grants scheme.

Under the Compact, charities should receive three months' notice of funding changes. Umbrella body the NCVO said the delay had caused "serious financial difficulties and insecurities".

The Section 64 grants scheme, which gave money to voluntary sector organisations that ran services in line with the department's priorities, was abolished this year in favour of a new third sector investment programme.

Consultation on the new programme followed Compact principles. More than 700 organisations attended consultation workshops and, according to Carolyn Heaney, third sector programme manager at the department, the process "achieved a step change in our understanding with the sector about our funding relationship".

Other changes have seen the department's Third Sector Partnership Team embed the Compact into policy developments.

The department's Third Sector Commissioning Task Force also published a report in 2006 outlining the health and social care reforms needed to create a fairer playing field for third sector providers. The report led to new guidance for commissioners on working in partnership with the third sector.

"It remains a key priority to work with colleagues to ensure the evolving NHS commissioning environment continues to be a fair playing field, observing Compact principles," says Heaney.

In May, Portsmouth won the FA Cup. And at last month's Compact Awards, the Commission for the Compact awarded the department its Compact Award for Excellence at a National Level.

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