The Active Community Unit has been travelling around the country running workshops to gauge how the Strategy Unit report on voluntary-sector law and regulation is being received and encourage organisations to respond.
The reforms that the report suggests are the most radical the sector has seen for a long time and from reading trade publications and attending conferences, you would think that it was foremost in every sector employees' mind. But a recent survey has produced the worrying statistic that 66 per cent of charities have never even heard of the review (see page 1).
This doesn't bode well for the unit's efforts to hold an inclusive consultation.
For smaller charities with few staff and small budgets, the day-to-day running of the organisation is a struggle in itself. A government unit looking at charity law may seem remote and irrelevant. Many organisations do not realise the effect the proposals in the report will have on them.
The Government, in commissioning the Strategy Unit report, has taken the first step in trying to create a new, modern sector identity. The voluntary sector needs to make the next move, bringing together organisations and making a concerted effort to respond to the report.
It is important that the implications of the proposals are discussed and fully understood by as many organisations as possible. The unit and umbrella organisations such as NCVO are trying to encourage responses but their reach may not be far enough. Perhaps larger organisations could take the lead by hosting events and debates on key issues.
If the sector does not produce a comprehensive set of responses to the review, the Government will be left with a picture of a disorganised and incoherent sector. This will not sit happily with its plans for voluntary-sector involvement in public service provision and organisations may find government regulation looming one step closer.