The five-minute policy manager – July 2014

The 5m policy manager: a 5 miles per hour sign. If, like me, you’re about to go in the loft and search for buckets and spades for the summer break, you’ve probably got five minutes to catch up on the latest voluntary sector policy news. (Alternatively, one wag suggested my entire knowledge of voluntary sector policy would fit into a five minute read…)

So, here are the things that have caught my eye…

The Cabinet office will soon consult on EU public contracts regulations

Now this sounds dryer than a typical English summer day, but it’s important stuff – so important, one wonders why they’re consulting in August. The regulations include provisions to help place social value at the centre of commissioning and procurement of public services.  We’ll be submitting a formal response that emphasises the need to ensure decisions are made not on cost alone, but with due attention to the need for quality. If you’ve got experience of commissioning or procurement and you want to feed into our response,

Paul would like to hear from you.

The voluntary sector and the future of welfare to work

Levels of employment are rising, but there remains evidence that the miracle labour market isn’t working for everyone (which this great blog explains really well). We’ve just published a report on the role of the voluntary sector in future welfare to work schemes. Stepping Stones sets out the changes needed from commissioners to make the most of the knowledge that exists within the voluntary sector, especially about the needs of vulnerable user groups. We’ve argued that any future programme should focus on a co-designed, locally-led service delivery approach based on smaller contracts and flexible payment models, with recognition of milestones towards employment. Even if the work programme isnt your thing, this has implications for commissioning more broadly.


Is your organisation struggling to adjust to the new operating environment for public service delivery or wondering how to form a consortium before bidding for a contract? Lev Pedro of our Public Service Delivery Network is organising a breakfast learning session on the voluntary sector, supply chains and consortia on Wednesday 10 September.

Find out more and book your place.

People helping people: the future of public services

At the end of June I attended a Cabinet Office Centre for Social Action seminar that was notable if nothing else for the cross-government interest: director level interest from a number of government departments signified real interest in how social action can – and in our view, should – be at the heart of services for the public. The Centre’s Innovation Fund is still open, but the next public step would appear to be September’s conference entitled People helping people: the future of public services. It still feels to me like social action – alongside social investment – will be the centrepiece of the policy agenda for Brooks Newmark, the new Minister for Civil Society.

The Treasury is thinking about making the Social Investment Tax Relief scheme bigger

The team have been in regular dialogue with HM Treasury about Social Investment Tax Relief, which provides tax relief to tax payers who invest in or lend to legal forms such as CICs and charities. We’ve been supportive of SITR, but we reckon it could be improved: for example, the limits on what an investee organisation can receive are low. Andrew O’Brien explains how in his blog, along with an explanation of what SITR is for the unitiated. The Treasury are now in consulation mode on SITR (#natch, it’s the summer!), so we’d love to hear your view to help shape our response before its closing date of 19 September.

Should volunteers get a council tax reduction?

In the week that the latest Community Life survey showed that the post-Olympic jump in volunteering seems to have run out of energy (this blog post from Nick Ockenden gets to the truth), the Local Government Association suggested that the isotonic sports drink required was a council tax rebate for residents volunteering in the public services. While hardly a dose of steroids, we’re not convinced, and nor are others if the debate on our blog is any indication. Join in.

Volunteers Week quotes from Caritas Anchor House residents. Note no mention of council tax rebate.

The Lobbying Act: more guidance, a little more clarity

The Electoral Commission has published its long-awaited guidance on the Lobbying Act for non-party campaigners, which of course includes charities. We’re reflecting on the guidance at the moment – including making a decision on whether NCVO itself will need to register with the Electoral Commission. The new rules take effect on 19th September, immediately after the Scottish Referendum.

Elizabeth Chamberlain has been following the Act throughout its life. Read her expert thoughts on what you need to know in her post ‘Electoral Commission guidance on the Lobbying Act – some key questions answered‘.

New and noted

The Big Lottery Fund has published Social Investment Explained if you are struggling to understand the jargon in this area. I know at times I am.

The rather splendid Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published its Minimum Income Standard for 2014. It’s carefully evidenced work shows that a single parent now needs to earn £27k a year for an adequate living standard, up from £13.5k just 6 years ago.

The Early Intervention Foundation have published The Early Intervention Guidebook, an interactive guide for anyone wanting to find out more about, or commission, early intervention services. This not only looks great, but is in serious danger of being really useful. I could spend hours with this.

EIF Guidebook

And finally…

If you’re thinking about what to do during the summer break, here’s a list of volunteering-themed pubs for you to visit. We do this so you don’t have to. Other voluntary sector related paraphernalia and summer holiday pics to the usual address please.

volunteer pub sign

Have a great summer,


Images: 5mph from Albrecht Schlotter, licenced under Creative Commons; volunteers’ week hand from Caritas Anchor House
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Karl Wilding Karl Wilding served as NCVO's chief executive from September 2019 to February 2021.

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