HL Deb 17 September 2003 vol 652 cc181-2WA
Baroness Gibson of Market Rasen

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have on the development and funding of' the voluntary and community sector infrastructure. [HL4550]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

A Home Office consultation document on the development and funding of voluntary and community sector (VCS) infrastructure in England is being published today. The Government's aim is to help to build a VCS, including social enterprise, which is fully engaged in shaping and delivering public services, underpinned by a high quality sustainable infrastructure that enables this to happen. Such support must meet the needs of a diverse sector and should complement support services available from the small business service and others.

As part of the spending review 2002, the Treasury undertook a cross-cutting review of the role of the VCS in service delivery, published in September 2002. The review identified that VCS infrastructure was patchy in distribution and in quality and that this was a barrier to increasing VCS involvement in service delivery. It recommended that "Government and the VCS should develop a coherent shared strategy to underpin capacity in the sector". Consultation with voluntary and community organisations, and others interested in an effective sector, will inform a final strategy to be published early next year. This will include proposals to guide the investment of approximately £80 million of SR2002 funds.

The aim is to put a strategy in place which ensures:

  • high quality support for voluntary and community organisations delivered as close to the point of need as is economically viable;
  • the existence of effective infrastructure locally, regionally and nationally. This may be supplemented by activity at a sub-regional level particularly activities that cannot be afforded more locally;
  • accessible, high quality support available across the VCS, including to support volunteering, black and minority ethnic and other diversity issues, social and community enterprise, community development, rural needs, and to support VCS use of information and communications technology; and
  • strengthened specialist infrastructure organisations operating nationally—and regionally where needed—covering thematic areas of VCS activity and service delivery such as youth work, childcare, and vocational training.

Copies of the consultation document are available in the House Library and on the Home Office website. We would welcome views on the proposals and questions outlined in the paper by Monday 22 December 2003. A draft regulatory impact assessment is included with the consultation document.