HOT ISSUE: Is the Compact working?

The Voluntary Sector Compact was introduced in 1998 to help improve the balance of power between the voluntary and statutory sectors. Some local authorities have also set up Compacts. There are five "codes

within the Compact, covering areas such as black and minority ethnic groups.

David Tyler, national director of Community Matters

NO

The Compact is not being widely observed as far as I can see, and the big job for whoever wins the contract to deliver it is ensuring wider implementation and monitoring compliance. There are several codes within the Compact relating to different groups or levels, and some have been more successful than others. The community groups code is late, and the sector is worried about the amount of resources that will be applied to ensuring community organisations get a fair deal.

Angela Sarkis, strategic adviser to the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations

NO

It's still early days but the Government needs to make more effort to reach out to black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. These communities are among the most disadvantaged so it is crucial they are involved. There is a Compact for BME groups which aims to ensure that organisations are involved with schemes that affect their communities. It has all the written credentials but there needs to be a culture change in local government, otherwise nothing will actually happen.

Brian McGinnis, special adviser at Mencap

YES

The Compact has worked in that it has helped local authorities and central government understand what the voluntary sector does and how it operates. The ideas in the Compact will be developed and reviewed in the Cross Sector review. For large organisations involved in service provision, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference. In cases where a contract is out to tender and organisations can make bids, it's about the price and quality of the service.

Sue Wigley, director of the National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service

YES

I'd say that a good start has been made, but there's still a long way to go. The codes of practice on funding and consultation are beginning to make an impact, but progress is patchy. Local Compact development has taken off at a great pace, and in many places is being linked to the development of Local Strategic Partnerships. One key area needing urgent attention is the involvement of black and minority ethnic communities.

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