Headlines: July 21st, 2009

The voice of the third sector is not being heard in shaping communities at regional level. The ipprnorth think tank has called for Government action to give the sector greater influence.

The survey on which the ipprnorth report is based, found that over 80 per cent of charity leaders thought that decision making at the regional was important for their work, but over 60 per cent thought the sector’s voice in policy-making at the regional and sub-regional levels was not very well established.

Because the role regions now play in shaping communities is changing with new powers and functions, the Government should include the third sector as key stakeholders together with quangos and partnerships, such as the Regional Development Agencies, regional local authority leaders’ boards and city-regional partnerships.

But if the third sector is to play an important role in decisions about economic development, planning, housing and regeneration, they need skills to do so effectively. These include strategic thinking, building strategic alliances, looking beyond immediate local issues and being clear about which policy debates to enter, and why. They also need to develop key messages providing a more coherent voice for the third sector and understanding and responding to small ‘p’ politics.

Jenny Berry, Director of ACEVO in the north said: “This report is an opportunity to raise the profile of third sector policy engagement with regional and national Government. A requirement from central Government to include the sector as a key stakeholder in partnerships and processes would strengthen the sector’s hand at a regional level.”

The Office of the Third Sector has awarded a contract to the Improvement and Development Agency for a programme to improve the contribution of the third sector to public service design and delivery. Under the contract, training will be provided to develop smarter and more effective processes and practices around commissioning. There will be joint training for commissioners and third sector bidders in the key areas of health and social care, education, training, employment, offender management and criminal justice.