Headlines: December 15th, 2008

The Minister for the Third Sector has challenged the sector to show the way in transforming public services. The challenge comes with a number of new developments demonstrating the Government’s commitment to working in partnership with charities, voluntary groups and social enterprise.

The Government has responded to the recommendation from the Public Administration Select Committee and endorsed the committee’s call for more intelligent commissioning of public services. The National Programme on Third Sector Commissioning will provide training for 3,000 commissioners who will carry the message to colleagues throughout their organisations that the third sector must be given a level playing field in bidding for contracts.

The Government has also given a commitment to partnership working and practical advice and information will be provided to smaller organizations who may wish to work together in order to bid for public service contracts. Smaller third sector organisations will be helped to form a consortium as a way to build capacity for larger contracts, giving vital flexibility when the global economy looks uncertain.

The Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills has announced that third sector organisations will get extra help to keep them training, ensuring they get the best performance from staff during challenging economic times. They will be eligible for an extended leadership and management programme through Train to Gain, the government’s flagship skills service.

From January 2009, funding rules will be relaxed so that third sector employees will also be able to access more flexible training support. It will include stand-alone accredited training modules and part-qualifications in essential areas like business systems, communications, sales and marketing, information technology, customer service, new product design, finance and credit, cash flow and profit management, and risk management.

Disappointment has been expressed that legal obstacles will prevent the inclusion of “social clauses” in contracts. Alternative ways are being sought to focus on the ‘social’ dimension in drawing up contracts.

The Society of Information Technology Management has announced that it will merge with The Charity IT Resource Alliance, a non-profit membership organisation supporting IT professionals in the third sector. It is estimated that the Third Sector spends in excess of 750m pounds annually on ICT.