What is going on in the political world?

Charlotte Stuffins blogs about policy. Charlotte no longer works for NCVO but her posts have been archived on this site.

What’s going on in the political world?

Most people living in the UK are likely to be familiar with the words coalition, Big Society and cuts. The terminology is everywhere – on breakfast television, in tabloid headlines, on twitter and of course, on the placards that periodically bob through Whitehall.

Yet for millions who don’t work in politics, public affairs or the media, these words are likely to just become white noise. They can lose their meaning and blur into the background of daily life.

But for people working or volunteering in the voluntary sector, much of what is going on is incredibly important to the day-to-day running of voluntary organisations.

How does politics affect the voluntary sector?
At NCVO, our Parliamentary and Policy teams follow what the Government is doing: from the passing of Acts of Parliament (such as the recent Localism Act), to more detailed Green and White Papers, Consultations and Regulations.
Currently, the Government is pursuing the following activities, all of which will have (or are already having) an impact on the voluntary sector:
  • Big Society– the phrase was coined by the Conservatives pre-2010 election and the agenda has been specifically attributed to the Prime Minister. It seeks to shift power from politicians to people and focuses on social action.
  • Encouraging Giving – the Government has a strategy for giving (outlined in the Giving White Paper last May) which hopes to increase the rates of charitable giving.
  • Localism – this will mean the decentralisation of power and decision making in the UK, giving more power to local authorities and therefore local communities.
  • New forms of finance – proposals include Big Society Capital (formerly the Big Society Bank), Social Investment and Payment by Results, which have a great deal of funding potential for certain parts of the sector.
So how can we influence politics?
It is generally accepted that central government holds the most control over the direction of policy. However, there is room for other groups to influence policy
Arguably, being able to challenge and influence Government decisions is an integral part of a healthy democratic system. This is because the majority of expertise on most policy areas is typically not found in government – it’s the people who have to deliver these policies who are likely to understand how well they will work on the ground. Think of the teachers in schools, the doctors and nurses in the NHS, the businesses strategists and the charities running frontline public services and support groups.
The Government clearly acknowledges this important process and therefore uses methods such as public consultations, focus-groups and the media to monitor public opinion and allow us to feed-into their policies. There is also an entire industry (public affairs) that serves this purpose, by representing the views of external stakeholders in government.
NCVO is perhaps best defined as a cause group that represents the views of its members to official decision makers. This is done through partnerships with government and specialist bodies, as well as through campaigns, lobbying and engagement in consultations and working groups.
How to find out more
Hopefully, this blog will have begun to de-mystify the current political landscape through illustrating the relevance of government decisions to the voluntary sector.
But if you want to find out more on how these decisions are likely to affect your organisation, there is an afternoon workshop at NCVO’s annual conference on 5th March entitled “Hot issues in politics and policy” with our Policy, Research and Foresight experts Karl Wilding, Nick Wilson-Young and James Allen. It’s filling up fast, so book your place here.

NCVO Policy Team’s blog

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