Headlines: January 8th, 2007

DEPARTMENT CHALLENGED OVER COMPACT WITH VOLUNTARY GROUPS

 

Voluntary organisations are challenging the Department for Education and Skills to comply at all times with the Compact. It follows a successful campaign to extend the deadline for applications for the Children, Young People and Families grant. Now the organisations want assurances that compliance will not be optional for the DfES.

Shortly before Christmas the Minister for Children and Families, Parmjit Dhanda, agreed that the deadline for applications for the grant, which is seen as vital to some voluntary bodies, would be extended to January 19th. More than 20 organisations and the Compact Advocacy Programme, based at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, had complained that the original January 3rd deadline failed to allow time to complete applications. They campaigned for an extension on the grounds that the few working days available to them would not allow them to engage with the children and families with which they worked. They claimed, too that it would also have created a number of organisational problems and hampered their ability to get agreement from trustees.

Saskia Daggett, Manager of the Compact Advocacy Programme, which represents voluntary organisations when the Compact has been broken said the grant was an important source of funding for many voluntary and community groups so it was crucial that the Department adhered to the funding code in the Compact. This stated that organisations should be given enough time to respond and that funding decisions should be timely.

She welcomed the change to the deadline but said the voluntary sector was concerned that the Minister had said those areas where the DfES was yet to be fully Compact compliant, would be addressed in future grant rounds. “This isn’t good enough. The Compact isn’t optional and we are therefore seeking assurances from the DfES that this situation will not arise again,” she said.

The Advocacy Programme is now seeking reassurance from the DfES about their compliance across the department and it will raise particularly concerns about the Learning and Skills Council’s adherence to the Compact after the LSC announced a new steering group to advise on its work with the voluntary and community sector.