Government launches new civil society strategy

The government has launched its new civil society strategy, announcing a number of changes to "strengthen the organisations, which hold our society together”.

Some of the government’s main announcements include releasing £20m from dormant charitable assets and placing the funds into grassroots community organisations. The inactive funds will also be plugged into the improvement of the take-up of the Social Value Act.

Upon announcing the consultation for the new strategy, Minister for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch said the strategy is an opportunity to “explore ways to build partnerships between public sector bodies and charities, to mobilise resources and expertise and find new solutions to the problems the charity sector faces.

“It will reaffirm the value that government places on civil society. It will explore what more government can do to support its work,” Crouch said.

“Civil Society in England is broad. It encompasses the work of individuals, charities, youth organisations and communities. Civil Society is increasingly diverse, with growing numbers of social enterprises, mission led businesses and public service mutuals, as well as many more private businesses and investors that want to make a meaningful contribution.

“I would like the strategy to help shape the future direction for our work with and for civil society, and encompass all who have a role to play in building a stronger and fairer society.”

The strategy pledges to strengthen corporate social responsibility by setting up a new Leadership Group with senior figures from business, investment and social sectors. It also promises to ensure charity trustees reflect the communities they serve.

Digital also features heavily in the strategy, with the government pledging to launch regional pilots to trial creative ways of involving people in local democracy, such as through online polls for community decisions. It also claims it will use digital to help charities reach more people and will support charities to have their voices heard.

Furthermore, the government plans to use £90m from inactive bank accounts to help set up an organisation that will aim to help disadvantaged youths and a further £55m to establish a financial inclusion group.

In the ministerial statement, Crouch, along with the charities minister, Jeremy Wright said: “This Strategy is intended to help government strengthen the organisations, large and small, which hold our society together.”

“The Civil Society Strategy is intended to set a direction for government policy.

“A group of civil society leaders wrote to us saying that “[the strategy] should not be focused on what the government thinks the sector should do… instead [it] should set out how the government can support and enable civil society to achieve its potential.” They also suggested that the strategy should be “living and breathing”, not a final communication, but the beginning of a process of policy development and collaboration.

“This is exactly what we intend to do. This strategy is designed to complement the work of the Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society led by Dame Julia Unwin, which is deliberately independent of government.

“Our purpose is to cast a vision of how government can help strengthen and support civil society in England. It will be complemented by the government’s strategy on tackling loneliness, which will set out how we will support strong connections between people."

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