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Give charities & people more power with new social covenant, says Kruger report

Give charities & people more power with new social covenant, says Kruger report

A new economic and social model is needed with people supported and empowered to play a more active role in their communities and charities given a greater role and voice in policy design and delivery of public services, a report has found.

Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant from MP Danny Kruger was published today, after the Prime Minister commissioned him in June this year to come up with proposals for sustaining the community spirit seen during the lockdown.

The report proposes a new social covenant, described by Kruger as “the mutual commitment by citizens, civil society, businesses and the state, each to fulfil their discrete responsibilities and to work together for the common good of all. We need a new social and economic model to achieve this.” For this, he says, a new social and economic model is necessary.

 

The report’s proposals include:

  • A ‘Community Power Act’ to give local people power over the design and delivery of public services
  • ‘Pop-up parishes’ with time-limited powers and freedoms to innovate
  • A Volunteer Passport system to match the supply and demand for voluntary help
  • A new National Volunteer Reserve to help with future emergencies and ongoing environmental challenges
  • Paid ‘service opportunities’ for unemployed young people to work on social and environmental projects, funded through the Kickstart programme
  • An annual Neighbour Day bank holiday to celebrate communities and volunteering
  • A deal with faith communities to work with the public sector on big social challenges
  • A deal with Big Tech to design new ‘digital infrastructure’ for communities

To finance some of the changes needed, the report proposes:

  • A new £500 million Community Recovery Fund to help civil society during the current crisis, financed through the defunct National Fund
  • A new £2 billion endowment, the Levelling Up Communities Fund, for investment in long-term, community-led transformation in left-behind areas, financed through dormant insurance accounts.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, Kruger says:

“We are on the cusp of a new era of economic and social policy. The era just ending was governed by economic and social doctrines which have caused us to become the most regionally unequal country in the developed world, with a range of chronic social challenges. The era now opening must address these challenges by putting communities at the heart of policy making.

“The experience of the recent crisis – the willingness of local people to step forward and collaborate, the flexibility shown by public services and the social commitment of businesses – shows what is possible. Add the extraordinary new dynamics of data and digital innovation, and a wholly new paradigm is possible in which community power replaces the dominance of remote public and private sector bureaucracies.”

 

Prime Minister’s response

In a written response, the Prime Minister said that the government was launching a new framework on public procurement by central government, and that he had asked Diana Barran, Minister for Civil Society to consult on how to get more people volunteering.

“I am pleased to announce that on ‘public value commissioning’, we are today launching a new framework for public procurement by central government. Drawing on the best models of local procurement, this framework will level the playing field for small business and social enterprises so they can win more contracts from government.

“I have asked Diana Barran, Minister for Civil Society, to consult with the people, charities and other local organisations who have volunteered during the pandemic, to discuss whether and how they expect to volunteer in future, and what infrastructure or policy support will help them to do so. Your comprehensive and hugely ambitious report contains many exciting ideas, which are actively being considered by DCMS, and I have asked Secretary of State Oliver Dowden, who is responsible for the Government’s civil society agenda, to update you on the Government’s work in this area in due course.”

Sector response

Responding to the report, Pro Bono Economics CEO Matt Whittaker said:

“Danny Kruger has shone a welcome spotlight on the pivotal role civil society should play. This review is clearly the product of broad consultation, and identifies many of the barriers that need overcoming if civil society is to deliver its full potential.

“Ideas for accelerating improvements to the data the UK holds on the social sector would – if implemented – help revolutionise policymaking and enable charities and social enterprises to have greater impact. The focus on boosting volunteering, philanthropic giving and social value means the review covers some of the most important themes for supporting civil society to do even more.

“When government turns to considering which recommendations to implement, urgent attention must be paid to how to funnel more resources into the sector. Our research shows the recession driving greater demand for charity services, with the sector facing a £10 billion funding gap this year. But it’s right that we look beyond the immediate challenges too, and the review identifies a number of important questions relating to the longer-term functioning of civil society. These are themes which the Law Family Commission on Civil Society will be sure to return to when it launches later this year.”

Tony Armstrong, CEO of Locality, also commented, saying:

“To truly level up the country and help our recovery from the pandemic, the government cannot rely on the levers of Whitehall. Instead it must embrace a radical community power agenda and provide the investment and support required to unlock its potential. It’s heartening to see Danny Kruger’s report to the Prime Minister advocate so clearly for this vision. There is much in the report to get behind  – including many ideas Locality have been championing.

“The Prime Minister has welcomed the report – but has yet to commit to acting on it. The government mustn’t let the ideas and recommendations in this report drift, nor the need to work with civil society to scrutinise and implement them. Recent years have seen a merry-go-round of national reports that have called for change that have led nowhere.

“We cannot afford to wait until the pandemic is over to take the urgent action our communities need. As we head into winter and all that that might bring, many of our communities and the essential organisations that support them face an incredible challenge to continue their vital work in hugely difficult circumstances. The Government has real, practical opportunities to act now to strengthen our social infrastructure, bolster our community’s resilience, and embed community power for decades to come.”

Also commenting on the report, Alistair Wilson, CEO, School for Social Entrepreneurs said:

“As you might expect, there is much of relevant for the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector. And there’s plenty in there that gives me hope for social entrepreneurship too, including an overarching vision for change to come from within communities.

“In encouraging news for us, Danny has put forward Match Trading grants, created by the School for Social Entrepreneurs, as one of 20 principle recommendations to government.

“Social entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of communities up and down the country. But they need support, especially in times like these. I believe Match Trading could be the key to unlocking social entrepreneurship, as a driver of inclusive growth and community power across the UK. More than 500+ organisations have used Match Trading grants to date. New independent research shows social sector organisations and community businesses typically increase their income from trading by 64% over a year, with the support of a grant and a learning programme – 2.5 times the pace compared to a traditional grant recipient.

“More broadly, this paper recommends more investment in the VCSE sector, which is of course always welcome and much needed. Crucially though, this isn’t just about handing out money.

“Danny’s recommendations recognise the importance of infrastructure support and leadership development alongside funding. He seems to be laying out a vision for a more place-based agenda for change, with communities leading from within to tackle the social and environmental challenges they face.

“We are reassured that recommendations in this vein come with a recognition that place-based change needs support to flourish. While contexts vary enormously from place to place, best practice and ideas can be shared across geographies.

“Danny is clear is not about government absolving itself of responsibility for social change. It’s about devolving more power to communities, while strengthening the infrastructure that will enable them to thrive.”

 

 

Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.

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