More than two-thirds of voluntary organisations in England are afraid to campaign as they fear the funding that local groups get from councils may be affected. An ‘Independence Day’ survey carried out by Compact Voice, based at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ claims independence is far from a reality for many voluntary organisations and councils and others will today face a call to strengthen local voluntary bodies.
The new study was conducted to coincide with local voluntary sector ‘Independence Day’, which is to be an annual event to call for the independence of the voluntary sector from local authorities to be strengthened. Sixty-nine per cent of organisations in the survey said local groups were afraid to campaign because of the possible impact on funding, despite voluntary organisations having their own ‘declaration of independence’, in the form of the Compact, with its commitment to ‘recognise and support the independence of the sector.
Other key findings show 65 per cent of organisations have local councillors on their trustee boards, 59 per cent say local public bodies do not understand the concept of voluntary sector independence and 46 per cent believe groups find it a struggle to represent their users and be heard. Compact Voice says the results are important because 70 per cent of the sector works at a local level.
Paul Barasi, Local Compact Officer for Compact Voice said the sector also had work to do to ensure its independence. ‘While this report shows that many local public bodies are compromising the sector’s independence, a significant number of voluntary organisations are not asserting their independence enough,” he said.
In a special Independence Day message, the Commissioner for the Compact, John Stoker, pinpoints the need to be vigilant and said the independence of the sector was crucial to an active community. “The Compact’s strong commitment on independence can’t be taken for granted because it doesn’t happen on autopilot. It takes local groups to safeguard it and public bodies to make it a reality when doing the business with them,” he added.
At a special event today Compact Voice will call on every area in England to take practical steps to strengthen the local voluntary and community sector’s independence as well as using the day to celebrate campaigning. The independence report will be available from today on NCVO’s website www.ncvo-vol.org.uk