NCVO public services news round up – December 2015

Welcome to Decembers’ public services news round up. This month I’ve highlighted some fantastic new web content on commissioning and a funding opportunity for social investment and contract readiness. I have also looked at the latest policy developments including the local government funding settlement and ministerial speeches on Open Data and Giving Tuesday. If you have any thoughts, questions or challenges then please leave a comment below or tweet us @NCVO @NJ_Davies

Everything you wanted to know about commissioning (but were too afraid to ask)

We are delighted to present newly rewritten advice on commissioning on our support website KnowHow NonProfit. This covers all aspects of the commissioning cycle and contracting – from deciding whether or not to bid through to writing successful pre-qualification questionnaires and tenders, and monitoring and evaluating public service delivery. It also explains some of the technical aspects of commissioning in detail, for example the law covering TUPE.

Grant funding for investment-readiness and contract-readiness

Grants are now available for organisations that wish to scale up their social impact, either through social investment, or through winning contracts above £1m.

Big Potential, a BIG Lottery Fund grant fund, will deliver approximately £20m of grant funding over 3 years to eligible voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VSCEs) with the aim of improving the sustainability, capacity and scale of the sector.

There are two strands to the Big Potential programme, Big Potential Breakthrough, aimed at VCSEs looking to raise up to £500,000 of investment and Big Potential Advanced, aimed at VCSEs looking to raise over £500,000 of investment or over £1m in contracts. NCVO is an approved provider and we can help you with the grant application process. If you’ve got any questions or would like to know more please contact Lev Pedro.

Local government funding settlement

In what Communities Secretary Greg Clarke is calling a ‘historic settlement’ local authorities across England are facing 6.7% cuts in real term spending. The LGA, whilst welcoming additional revenue raising flexibility, has cautioned that councils still face significant funding challenges due to increased demand for services and the National Living Wage. This squeeze will, unfortunately, have inevitable implications for the voluntary sector which receives around a sixth of its funding from local government.

Government transparency

The Commissioning on Freedom of Information isn’t due to report until February (read NCVO’s response) but news articles this week suggest government may be rowing back from restricting the Act. Both Matt Hancock, the minister responsible, and Sir Jeremy Haywood, the Cabinet Secretary, have let it be known that they are against making it harder to obtain government data.

This month has also seen Matt Hancock deliver a speech setting out guiding principles on open data. In it, he stressed the importance of usability, collaboration and trust in open government as well as ensuring government itself is a consumer of open data.

In acknowledging that data is a public asset and should therefore be used for public benefit, Hancock also recognised that open data that isn’t usable, is not really open at all. Interestingly, he also stated that one of the most important things the government could do is develop a strong ethical framework in partnership with civil society, to ensure personal data is safe and handled with care.

Giving Tuesday

In what appears to be a popular month for speeches we also heard from Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, on Giving Tuesday. Reflecting on the Spending Review (which you can read more about in Michael’s blog), he highlighted areas where government would be further supporting charities, as well as emphasising that he wanted to see a sector that wasn’t dependent on government income.

Discover how cultural commissioning can improve communities

The Cultural Commissioning Programme, led by NCVO, comes to the end of its first phase in June 2016.  This will be followed by a second phase, starting July 2016: the programme will draw on good practice and learning it has identified to influence at national level, and to continue to build support of national stakeholders.  From phase 1 it has produced a wealth of information and case studies showing how commissioners can commission arts and culture to deliver health and wellbeing and other outcomes for communities.

NCVO’s Annual Conference

Come together with over 500 voluntary sector leaders at our Annual Conference on 18 April 2016 and consider how charities have changed and what we need to do to set the agenda for tomorrow’s voluntary sector. This will include an afternoon session on what local authorities are looking for from the voluntary sector.

Payment by results tool – have your say

The Oak Foundation is funding the development of an interactive tool to assist commissioners and providers to decide whether a payment by results approach might be an effective approach to commissioning a particular service. A series of workshops are being run in January and February to inform this process. If you’d like to attend or find out more, you can do so here.

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Nick was NCVO's public services manager until March 2017. He is also a trustee of the South London Relief in Sickness Fund.

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