Headlines: January 17th, 2003

Public bodies that breach agreements with voluntary organizations will now face a tough central negotiating team and a risk of the grievance being aired in a publicity campaign. Initially the Compact Advocacy Programme will only take on central Government departments and agencies, but later will be extended to local government.Typical situations where a government department or agency might attempt to ride rough-shod over a voluntary organization include unreasonably delaying a funding decision, threatening to withdraw grants because an organization is campaigning against Government policies, or failure to consult with an organization on policy changes which will have a direct impact on it.

Richard Hebditch has been appointed as Compact Advocacy Officer. He was formerly Parliamentary and Campaigns Officer of the National Council for Voluntary Organizations. His first task is to develop a programme for identifying breaches of the Compact and using a mix of strategies and techniques, he will press for institutional policy and practice change.

The Compact Advocacy Programme team is developing a Compact DIY Tool Kit which will enable voluntary organizations to use the Compact themselves in disputes with Government.

The Compact is a written understanding between the Government and the voluntary sector, setting out a framework for their relationship. It was signed in 1998 and has cross-party support. Guidelines on Local Compacts were launched in 2000. Local compacts mirror the national Compact and are being drawn up in consultation between the voluntary sector at a local level and local councils and other local public bodies.