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Voluntary Sector Compact

Volume 456: debated on Wednesday 31 January 2007

2. Whether the compact on relations with the voluntary sector has been fully implemented across all Departments. (112461)

Since its introduction in 1998, important steps have been taken to implement the compact. However, we recognise that there is more to do. That is why key aspects of it, such as multi-year funding, are a focus of the next spending review, and that is why we have appointed a new commissioner to oversee its implementation.

The Minister must know that the compact on relations with the voluntary sector will be 10 years old next year, yet key principles, such as full cost recovery by key Government funders, have been routinely ignored. There was a cross-cutting review in 2002, and there is now another review. Will the Minister tell the voluntary sector in Southend and throughout the country what will be different about the latest review, recognising that we all welcome a “sinner that repenteth”?

What I will tell voluntary groups in Southend is that there has been massive improvement in the past 10 years. Even in the past two years, the proportion of organisations funded on the basis of full cost recovery has gone up from 49 to 57 per cent. Do not take my word for it; look at a document published just before Christmas, which said:

“This Government has made good steps in its approach to the sector (expansion of Gift Aid, increase in sector funding, new dedicated ministry, and the Compact)”.

Who published that document? Not the Government, but the Conservative party’s social justice policy group, on which the hon. Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark) serves.

My hon. Friend will be aware that the voluntary sector is particularly well represented in the sports sector, as 26 per cent. of all volunteers are involved in sport. Will he ensure that they fully understand the implications of the compact? He is welcome to attend a meeting tomorrow of a national organisation that represents all those people, of which I am chair. Will he bring the message of hope, which is that volunteering, particularly in 2012, will drive forward our agenda, particularly for young people, who increasingly get involved in volunteering, especially in sport? That is the positive message that I hope he will bring to the meeting.

My hon. Friend is right. I am looking forward to the meeting that he mentions. Already 110,000 people have volunteered to get involved in the Olympics, both before and during the games. There is a massive opportunity to drive that number far higher, to get a whole generation of young people, in particular, involved in volunteering, and to use the Olympic games not just for the good that they will do for sport in this country, but for the wider effects that they can have.

In assessing the implementation of the compact, is the Minister aware that the Department for Work and Pensions proposes to take £20 million of European social fund moneys away from successful voluntary sector schemes to help the most disadvantaged back into work, and to use those moneys to fund its own activities instead, which may cause, for example, CSV to lay off 100 people and deny help to 17,000 people in the coming financial year? Does he think that that is in the spirit of the compact and, if not, will he ask the Department for Work and Pensions to think again?

The amount of money available under the European social fund is falling over time, partly as a result of increased prosperity in the United Kingdom. That judgment is made not in this country, but in Europe. Stability in funding for the voluntary sector is extremely important. That is why we are putting an emphasis on three-year funding, which the Chancellor referred to in the pre-Budget report. I cannot guarantee that every voluntary organisation will continue to be funded. What we can seek to do is change the culture in Government so that there is greater stability in funding.