Headlines: March 3rd, 2008

Community organisations have claimed a mismatch of government policies and a lack of funding is undermining their ability to speak out about the needs of ordinary people. The claim is based on the findings of research by bassac, the national network of multi-purpose community organisations dedicated to tackling poverty, exclusion and discrimination.

The study’s findings have been backed by the Improvement and Development Agency and the NCVO’s Campaigning Effectiveness programme. The report, ‘Calling For Change’, found there were aspects of legislation that were preventing people from playing a part in the democratic renewal of their neighbourhoods.

The research was conducted by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and is based on interviews with senior staff, trustees from community anchor organisations and local authority staff working with the voluntary and community sector. Ben Hughes from bassac, said the network had a unique ability to work with excluded communities, often focusing on deprived communities, to include them in mainstream civil society.

“This research shows that ‘community advocacy’ work can bring huge benefits for local communities but it is not properly funded. Government funding must help stimulate advocacy and campaigning at the community level and empower our diverse communities across the country,” he said.

Helen Hughes, national adviser for third sector and communities at the IDeA, said local authorities needed to ensure people were given a voice in decisions.

“Councils are being given power to shape areas and develop services that meet local needs. But if they are to use this power effectively, it requires an ability to listen to the voices of groups and individuals, involving them in developing services and policies,” she said. There was good work being done but there was a tendency for only the ‘loudest voices’ to be heard and there was a clear gap between Government aspirations and reality.