Headlines: May 12th, 2005

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has been awarded 370,000 pounds funding by the Big Lottery Fund to expand its advice and advocacy services. The money will strengthen the position of voluntary bodies when they believe that central departments, councils, health bodies and quangos are taking an unfair advantage. Typical cases of unfair treatment include unreasonably delaying funding decisions, failing to consult on policy changes that have a direct impact and threatening to withdraw grants because of criticism of policies.The new funding will support the Compact Advocacy Programme of the NCVO which will now be able to take on for the first time local cases that are in dispute. 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. The Compact Advocacy Programme was launched to take on the Government over breaches of the Compact on behalf of aggrieved voluntary organisations.

Phil Jew at Advice UK said: ‘Increasing the capacity of NCVO’s Compact Advocacy Programme to take on local cases is essential to the success of the Compact. Voluntary organisations dealing with the might of statutory funders need support and advice on advocacy to make the best use of the Compact.’

The Compact is unique. It is the first of its kind in the world and has attracted attention from over 25 countries. The voluntary sector is represented in discussions with the Government on taking the Compact forward by the Compact Working Group which also liaises with the Local Government Association.

The extension of the Advocacy Programme comes at a time when the public sector is placing greater reliance on voluntary bodies to deliver public services. There are more than 3,700 voluntary organisations, ranging from large national bodies to community groups, volunteer bureaux, and development agencies working at a local level.