Office for Civil Society 'ignores responses to consultations', says charity chief

Richard Caulfield of Voluntary Sector North West says the views of the sector appear to be ignored

Richard Caulfield
Richard Caulfield

A charity chief executive has accused the Office for Civil Society of ignoring the voluntary sector’s responses to consultation exercises when formulating policy.

Richard Caulfield, who leads the regional network Voluntary Sector North West, spoke out after he used the Freedom of Information Act to gather information about two OCS consultations.

Caulfield asked the OCS for documents summarising responses to Supporting a Stronger Civil Society, a consultation document on improving infrastructure, and the Modernising Commissioning green paper. Both consultations closed in January 2011.

Caulfield also asked to see any subsequent reports relating to the findings of these consultations and details about how the consultations had informed subsequent programmes, such as the £30m Transforming Local Infrastructure fund.

The OCS provided a summary of responses to Supporting a Stronger Civil Society. But it said it "held no information related to the findings" nor did it hold information aligning the findings to subsequent policies.

It said a summary of responses to Modernising Commissioning would be published in spring. However, it added it did not hold any information aligning the findings of the consultation to subsequent policies.

Caulfield said infrastructure organisations spent a lot of time encouraging local charities to respond to government consultations but the OCS’s response made him question whether it was worth it.

"There appears to be no attempt to align consultations and outcomes," said Caulfield.

"It’s massively disappointing that we go through the processes of involving and engaging the sector and there appears to be nothing to show for it. Our views appear to be ignored."

An OCS spokeswoman said it took the views of stakeholders and partners "very seriously", and the summary findings of its consultation on Supporting a Stronger Civil Society, which it released to Caulfield, had informed subsequent policy developments.

"We regularly engage voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations from across the sector to inform decision-making through consultation exercises and other channels such as the OCS strategic partner programme," she said.

Read Caulfield's blog for Third Sector

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