OPINION: Come together for a stronger voice in policy

Geraldine Peacock, chief executive of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

"If the kids are united, we will never be divided." Wise words indeed from that punk-era sage Jimmy Pursey of Sham 69 - and a sentiment which is especially applicable to the voluntary sector.

The advantages of joint working, partnerships and coalitions within our sector were really brought home to me recently as the fireworks bill progressed through Parliament. Every year we have to retire prematurely a growing number of guide dogs due to trauma from firework noise. The bill seeks to give the Government powers to regulate the importation, sale and use of fireworks and it is passionately supported by many guide dog owners and by hundreds of thousands of other people up and down the UK, whose interests are often represented by other charities.

Coming together with these otherwise disparate groups has meant working closely with a large number of voluntary organisations representing both human- and animal-based causes. And the more we have worked together, the more support we have attracted from other organisations and individuals.

Regular comments from politicians to the effect that a coalition's voice is more powerful than the individual voices of the partners have also validated what we are doing. And there is no doubt that, to date, we have made real progress, with Bill Tynan's private member's fireworks bill about to receive its third reading.

But this is just the latest of many coalitions to bear fruit. A couple of examples from the disability world spring to mind, such as the Rights Now Coalition campaigning in the run-up to the creation of the Disability Discrimination Act. More recently, the communications bill brought together agencies to ensure that the needs of people with sensory disabilities are met in the area of telecommunications.

And it works. The Government is listening and, while there may still be giant strides needed, many have already been made. Collaboration with, and within, the sector has been integral to such initiatives as the Futurebuilders fund, the cross-cutting review and the Strategy Unit Report.

So, moving on from Pursey, I'll finish with the somewhat more sedate Brian Ferry's "Let's stick together, C'mon, c'mon ..." ringing in your ears.

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