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Voluntary and Community Sector

Volume 542: debated on Wednesday 21 March 2012

3. What recent discussions he has had on the types of Government funding models available to the voluntary and community sector. (100939)

13. What recent discussions he has had on the types of Government funding models available to the voluntary and community sector. (100949)

We want to help the voluntary and community sector to become more resilient by developing three pillars of funding: traditional giving, income from the state including more opportunities to deliver public service and a new pillar, the emerging market of social investment.

Many local voluntary organisations were set up to complement statutory services, as Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service reminded me when I met its representatives last week. If the predominant funding source for the voluntary sector is now to be public sector contracts, will not thousands of valuable voluntary groups throughout the country be left high and dry, showing once again this Government’s utter contempt for the big society that they purport to champion?

I think the hon. Lady missed my point. We are developing three pillars of funding, with the encouragement of high levels of giving, including a very generous tax incentive introduced by the Chancellor in the previous Budget; a new source of funding, social investment; and the launch of the world’s first social investment bank within a few weeks. But, yes, we want to do more with the sector to help us deliver public services, so, yes, we will be opening up new opportunities for charities and social enterprises to help us do just that.

No. The hon. Gentleman asks his supplementary question now, although it would have been helpful if there had been advance notification of the grouping to my office, which there was not. Very regrettable. The Minister must do better in the future, I am afraid.

A survey commissioned by Charity Bank has revealed that more than 20% of charities have suffered from the cancellation of contracts with businesses and Government bodies in the past year. Does the Minister agree that the Government’s refusal to recognise the needs and benefits of charities and voluntary organisations in policy formulation is preventing such organisations from getting vital funding to which they are entitled?

First, Mr Speaker, I apologise to you formally for that oversight by my office.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Any commissioner in the public sector needs to engage with stakeholders in communities before commissioning services—not least in the voluntary and community sector, whose stakeholders tend to have, on the whole, a much better understanding of the needs of the people we are trying to help.

Five months ago, the Prime Minister told me here that he would look at the funding gap arising from changes to legal aid funding for advice services such as the citizens advice bureaux in Wiltshire. Does the Minister consider that he has yet found lasting funding arrangements to sustain that voluntary sector service in future years?

We know that the charity advice sector is under a lot of pressure; that is why we found the money for a £20 million fund to provide immediate support for the most vulnerable organisations and why we are undertaking a serious review of the longer-term issues facing the sector. We will be announcing the findings of that review later in the spring, so the hon. Gentleman may not have to wait very long.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the work of bodies such as Voluntary Action Leicestershire, which are advising the voluntary and community sector so well in Leicestershire, including my constituency of Loughborough, on how to find alternative funding models and how to do things differently given the changed funding environment?

I am certainly happy to do that. Such organisations play an essential role in providing support for front-line organisations. That is why we have found £30 million of funding to support organisations as they improve those services for the front line through the transforming local infrastructure fund.