Launch of community groups' kitemark scheme

Community organisations hoping to work with local authorities will now be able to prove their worth under a new accreditation scheme launched by the support body Community Matters. The kitemark scheme will be called Visible Communities.

Community Matters will scrutinise governance and services delivered by applicants to determine whether they meet the necessary standards. It is expected that community organisations will use the accreditation to win service contracts, grants and local support.

A kitemark was recommended earlier this year in the Quirk review on the transfer of local assets to community organisations.

The Visible Communities scheme has already been piloted by three organisations: the Cutteslowe Community Association in Oxford, the Foresight Project for blind and visually impaired people in Grimsby and the West Hampstead Community Association in London. Each organisation received its accreditation at the Community Matters annual conference two weeks ago.

"There's a great deal of government interest at the moment in tools that measure the value and benefit of community-based activity," said David Tyler, chief executive of Community Matters. "This concern is about both raising standards and managing risk.

"We think that some smaller or more self-contained organisations will just want to use the accreditation as a development or self-assessment programme, but we've been surprised by the clamour from many of our members for a scheme that gives an independent endorsement of the standards they've achieved."

Accreditation will cost between £1,400 and £1,650 for each organisation. See www.visiblecommunities.org for more information.

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