Government urged to 'transform relationship with the sector'

With the DCMS consulting on its civil society strategy, charities and umbrella bodies have written to charities minister Tracey Crouch, telling her it should be a 'blueprint for long-lasting engagement'

DCMS: consulting on strategy
DCMS: consulting on strategy

A group of charities and umbrella bodies has called on the government to use its forthcoming civil society strategy as an opportunity to "transform the government’s relationship with the sector".

In a joint letter to Tracey Crouch, the Minister for Sport and Civil Society, 14 sector organisations call on the government to ensure the strategy "provides a blueprint for long-lasting engagement" with the voluntary sector.

The letter, which has been signed by the heads of 14 sector organisations, including the charity leaders body Acevo, the Charity Finance Group, the Association of Charitable Foundations, the Institute of Fundraising and the local infrastructure body Navca, says the strategy is "an opportunity for the government to set out how it will engage, listen to and work with the sector".

It says: "It is critical that the strategy focuses on how government can not only better enable the sector, but also provide a blueprint for long-lasting engagement.

"To effectively tackle the many challenges ahead, we need a living and breathing strategy that fundamentally reassesses how government works with the sector.

"It should not be focused on what government thinks the sector should do; this is for the sector to determine with their beneficiaries.

"Instead, the strategy should set out how the government can support and enable civil society to achieve its potential."

The letter calls for both sides to "move beyond transactional relationships between the sector and the government" and instead work to "build understanding, trust and respect, to inform better decision-making and to ensure people can access the support they need".

A consultation on the strategy closes at 9am on Tuesday. The signatories to the letter ask the government to ensure the strategy includes a funding system that enables the sector to deliver long-term value.

It says available funds, such as those from dormant assets, should be used strategically to support the long-term sustainability of the sector, and calls for funding system reform to build long-term sustainability, "reducing long-term costs, complexity and bureaucracy, with greater use of grants to enable flexibility and innovation".

It says: "We are collectively calling on the government to ensure the new strategy has the strength to transform the government’s relationship with the sector so that we can work collectively to build a stronger society.

"If we are able to improve how the government works with the sector, this consultation needs to be the beginning, not the end, of engagement."

Paul Streets, chief executive of the Lloyds Bank Foundation, who also signed the letter, said it was important that the new strategy resulted in real change and action.

"That is why we have come together as 14 organisations that fund, represent and support thousands of charities to urge ministers to deliver a strategy that commits to engaging with charities right across government, and to using and reforming funding to better support charities to be sustainable, grow and thrive," he said.

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