Third sector review: 'the challenge is implementation'

The Office of the Third Sector has a "significant task" in implementing the themes in the third sector review, voluntary organisations have warned.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown backed the third sector review in a keynote speech today, promising to put the voluntary sector “at the heart of society”.

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO and a member of the review’s advisory group, said the review signalled “a more Brownite agenda” with the emphasis not just on the sector’s public service role but also on its role in shaping public policy.

The challenge lay in putting into practice the ideas outlined by the review, he said. “The Office of the Third Sector has a significant task in ensuring that all departments understand the review’s proposals and implement its recommendations.

“This must go beyond simply seeking to work with voluntary and community organisations to deliver public services and recognise the sheer diversity of the sector and the way that it works.”

The sector must hold the Government to account on the milestones contained in the review, he added.

Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb said the Prime Minister had clearly signalled his belief in the potential of the sector to achieve social change, and welcomed a relaxing of political campaigning rules for charities.

“There is no inherent conflict between commissioning for service delivery contracts and campaigning freely and effectively,” he said. “It is important that third sector leaders can manage both their campaigning and service needs; indeed, service delivery has strengthened our voice and our ability to influence.”

Adele Blakebrough, chief executive at CAN, formerly known as the Community Action Network, welcomed the accent put on social enterprise in the review.

“For social enterprise to truly flourish in the UK and provide innovative business solutions to social problems, it needs solid foundations, diversity of finance, infrastructure and opportunity,” she said.

Tom Flood, chief executive of volunteering charity BTCV, said the review was “insightful”.

“I was particularly pleased to see the emphasis on volunteering and how this can lead to personal achievement by acquiring new skills and building a sense of community and a connection with society,” he said.

“I believe it is very encouraging for the sector to have the support of the Prime Minister and to see that volunteering is one of his priorities.”

Terry Ryall, chief executive of volunteering charity v, said the additional investment in volunteering was “fantastic news for our communities”.

Steve Clare, assistant director at the Development Trusts Association, said the review was a step in the right direction.

"We welcome the commitment in this report to put the third sector at the heart of society,” he said. “We believe very strongly that successful and sustainable social and economic regeneration has to be based on helping people to help themselves and on helping communities to take responsibility for their own future.”

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