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Policy Bulletin, issue 29

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Welcome to RAWM’s bi-weekly policy e-briefing for all those interested in sustaining influence and change in the West Midlands. This briefing aims to summarise of all the main policy developments and changes affecting voluntary and community sector (VCS) groups in the West Midlands. If you have information you would like to contribute to the e-briefing, please contact Katherine Gordon, Policy Coordinator on 0121 359 9114 or email katherineg@rawm.co.uk. RAWM welcomes any constructive feedback regarding this fortnightly policy e-briefing.

Sustaining Influence and Change is a three year workstream within RAWM, funded by the Big Lottery BASIS programme  and aims to build the capacity of voluntary and community sector groups and organisations by providing support that will allow the sector to be more effective in regional policy work and engagement. One such example is through regional policy fora which provide opportunities to work together on policy issues of regional importance.

Sharon Palmer
Chief Executive Officer

In this issue

  • General
  • Funding & Resources
  • Personal & Organisational Development
  • Consultations
  • Events

General

Kevin Curley, Chief Officer of NAVCA, addresses RAWM Chief Executives meeting

Key issues

On 30th March, RAWM convened a meeting of the Chief Executives of local infrastructure organisations (LIOs) from around the West Midlands. The meeting was addressed by Kevin Curley, Chief Officer of NAVCA, the national umbrella body for LIOs. Download

Implications for organisations

NAVCA and NCVO have been delivering a similar message to the voluntary and community sector including LIOs. Organisations may have the right to exist, but they don’t have an automatic right to public funding: unless they can demonstrate how and where they fit in with local priorities, their chances of receiving grants, service level agreements or commissions are reduced. There is a drive from central Government to merge, but surveys show few charities are giving this serious consideration; however, even if mergers are unpalatable, collaborative working and the pooling of resources is necessary.

Purdah

Key issues

As the date of the General Election has been announced, much activity has been suspended or slowed down. However, there is still work that can be done, as long as charitable organisations abide by the strict rules when they are doing it.

Community Matters have produced a resource pack to help small groups campaign around local issues.

Voice4Change, the national BME infrastructure organisation, have launched an online survey to engage Black and Minority Ethnic third sector organisations to participate in a national dialogue to shape a Manifesto for the BME third sector. The manifesto will be published after the General Election.

Government support for the voluntary sector

Key issues

John Healey, Communities Secretary, recently announced 4 new measures to support the voluntary sector:

  • New support to transfer publicly owned buildings to the ownership or control of local voluntary groups
  • A series of new grants which will let local organisations become self-sufficient
  • New guidance to local councils, telling them to make sure that third sector organisations must be given a fair chance to bid for local council contracts
  • New measures to enable community groups to raise new finance and to play a bigger role in delivering cost-effective services which prevent, rather than treat, social problems.

John Denham: Community and voluntary sectors vital to local areas

Implications for organisations

These measures are clearly intended to transfer the burden and responsibility for delivering public services away from the public sector and on to the voluntary sector; however, it remains to be seen how helpful they will be to the small, grassroots groups they seem to be aimed at, especially in the immediate future.

DCLG: Our Nation’s Civic Health - summary report

Key issues

The Department for Communities & Local Government (DCLG) has published a report on the nation’s civic health.

This report brings together key measures of civic health in order to offer a unique insight into the strength of modern democracy in England and the connections people have to their communities. It reveals key trends over time and, where possible, shows how civic health varies across the country. It is hoped that presenting this information in this way will help readers understand the complex factors that contribute to how people feel about and engage with their community. It is also our aim to encourage public challenge around issues of concern.

Annex B contains the results for every local authority area.

Action points and key dates

It will be useful to read this report in conjunction with the Total Place survey.

CLG - Local Spending Report

CLG have set up a tool enabling individuals and organisations to find out the level of public expenditure in their local area.

You need Adobe Flash Player 10  in order to download the data.

Mutualism

Key issues

The Government has recently published a paper 'Mutual Benefit: giving people power over public services' setting out proposals for:

  • New and improved opportunities for tenants to manage their own homes and housing services
  • The opportunity for local areas to pilot ways of running Children’s Centres as part of local mutual federations
  • Improving the sustainability of user-led organisations that exploring ways for communities to have a formal role in the governance of employee-led social enterprises that spin out of the traditional public sector.

Implications for organisations

Mutualism seems to be flavour of the month as both main political parties are now promoting user-led organisations and services managed at the local level, by service users where practicable.

Statutory guidance on the duty to respond to petitions

Key issues

DCLG has published statutory guidance to local authorities on the duty to respond to petitions.

Implications for organisations

Anyone who lives, works or studies in the local authority area, including under 18’s, can sign or organise a petition and trigger a response. Third sector organisations may trigger petitions on their own account or on behalf of local communities or user groups.

It may be worth noting that petitioners can ‘prompt a review’ if they believe the local authority response is inadequate.

Action points and key dates

The core elements of the petitions duty will come into force on Tuesday 15 June 2010.
The e-petitions requirements come into force on Wednesday 15 December 2010.

Volunteer Matters

On 8th March, the Conservative Party announced its plans for a ‘National Citizen Service’ for 16 year olds. Read more online.

The Conservative Party states the National Citizen Service will be high on their agenda should they win the General Election. The scheme will be funded by money currently invested in the Prevent programme, which may be welcomed by communities targeted by the anti-terror agenda.

The Labour Party has already announced their plans for compulsory youth volunteering for 16-19 year olds.

Additionally, as part of their Big Society manifesto and localism agenda, the Tories have announced they would terminate the Futurebuilders programme and redirect the monies into creating an army of 5,000 community leaders and supporting neighbourhood groups.
Read more online.

The Tory party plans to disband Futurebuilders were announced on the same day as a positive evaluation report on the organisation was released.
Download evaluation report [PDF].

Volunteering England and JobCentre Plus have signed an agreement under which JCP will promote the value of volunteering to jobseekers, and provide accurate information about claiming benefits while volunteering.
Read more online >>

‘Volunteering’ often suggests unpaid volunteers working with service users or working at the delivery end in some other capacity such as administration duties. However, many people give their time free of charge to help manage organisations i.e. the trustees who are usually the invisible side of the VCS. One ex-trustee has made herself very visible by setting up her own blog site to tell people about her alleged experiences of bullying and sexism as a trustee of Melton Mowbray Town Estate. As increasing numbers of people give their time freely to charities, those organisations must ensure they have robust procedures to ensure volunteers are treated fairly and consistently.
Read more online >>

Rural Matters
Key issues
The Centre for Rural Economy, based at Newcastle University, has published a report identifying 5 key concerns for rural areas: rural economies; rural communities; ageing; broadband, and housing.
Download report (pdf) >>

Implications for organisations
The report sets out the issue, the evidence base, and policy solutions under each heading.