Restore abandoned ChangeUp themes, say umbrella bodies

Two umbrella bodies are lobbying Capacitybuilders to reinstate specific national support services for IT and workforce. The themes were dropped as part of plans announced last week to replace the ChangeUp hubs with nine 'national support programmes'.

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Navca have both contacted Capacitybuilders to call for the two areas to be reinstated under the revised plans.

Capacitybuilders has announced that IT will no longer be a standalone service and will instead be incorporated into the ‘adapting to social change' programme. The workforce theme will be dropped altogether because Capacitybuilders expects a sector skills council to be set up and anticipates that it will fulfil the role that the existing Workforce Hub plays.

However, the NCVO, which is the accountable body for the ICT Hub and the Workforce Hub, criticised the plan and is calling on Capacitybuilders to create specific IT and workforce national support programmes. Ben Kernighan, the umbrella body's deputy chief executive, who led its involvement in the hubs, today met Simon Hebditch, chief executive of Capacitybuilders.

"I am not satisfied," Kernighan said. "All the Government has agreed to so far is a feasibility study into a sector skills council. To take it forward we will need government and the sector to agree what the skills council would do and how it would be funded, which will take time. Funding for workforce support should be maintained until that time."

It was also likely that a skills council would address needs that were different to those the existing Workforce Hub supports, he said. Meanwhile, incorporating IT into the adapting to social change programme could mean a lack of resources, he added.

"Research shows that IT is one of the biggest skills gaps facing the sector - people are drawn together by passion for a cause, not because they are experts in running computers," he said. "The ICT Hub funding was £2m; for the national support service it will be £0.5m. If ICT is just part of a national support service, that is not enough resources."

In a letter to Capacitybuilders' chief executive Simon Hebditch, Navca chief executive Kevin Curley urged the organisation to reconsider.

"We feel strongly that this is a serious omission," the letter said. ICT is "crucial to the sector's ability to perform", while, on workforce, the expected sector skills council would be "unlikely to meet the practical needs at local level", it continued.

New programmes


Kernighan said the NCVO will consider bidding when the invitation to tender for the nine new programmes is issued on 26 September. The new programmes include several themes that the NCVO already works on, so they provide a potential opportunity for the umbrella body, he said. If it was to bid, it would want to work in collaboration, he added.

Hebditch has said that Capacitybuilders does not want to hand work to big partnerships of organisations (Third Sector, 12 September), but Kernighan said he did not think there was a conflict and added that it was important to involve other groups to reach out to as many potential service users as possible.

"In all work there is collaboration," he said. "For example, our sustainable funding project is not a formal partnership, but there is an advisory group."

As accountable body for three of the six hubs, the NCVO is heavily affected by the new plans. But Kernighan, who was not able to confirm what proportion of the body's income is made up from hubs funding, said that no final decisions had been made about the future of the work it is involved in through the hubs or which new programmes it would like to be involved in.

For the time being, the NCVO's priority is the future of the IT and workforce themes. "We are focusing on articulating our arguments to Capacitybuilders," said Kernighan.


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