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GOVERNMENT COMMITMENT TO PARTNERSHIP WITH VOLUNTARY SECTOR

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The government is committed to working in partnership with the ...
The government is committed to working in partnership with the

voluntary sector nationally and in a strengthened regional network,

home office minister Alun Michael told a conference in Manchester

today.

Mr Michael said his first priority as minister with responsibility

for the voluntary sector was to establish, in consultation with

everyone concerned, a compact setting out how the government and the

voluntary sector should work together.

He was speaking at a conference organised by the Voluntary Sector

North West on the contribution of voluntary organisations to

regeneration in the English regions and how this might be improved

through an extended regional network.

Mr Michael told the conference:

'The range of voluntary activity that goes on in this country and the

diversity of voluntary organisations means that the government sees

the sector in a huge variety of roles.

'We see the voluntary sector as innovators, advocates, specialists.

We see the sector as designers and providers of services and we see

individuals and organisations who are capable of reaching the parts

of society which no government can reach. We see people who live

and breathe the same values which motivate us as a government and who

share the same objectives: to end social exclusion, to build a

society where everyone can belong. People who know what it means to

get something out by putting something in.

'Ultimately we see the voluntary sector as our partners - people we

can work with to shape a new and better Britain, whose strengths

complement ours and whose goals we share.' Dealing with the Compact,

Mr Michael said that he did not want to pre-judge the results of the

present consultation. But there was a need to acknowledge that the

sector had a role in influencing policy and delivering services and

that it played a part in building a vibrant civil society.

He said:

'I want the Compact to provide a solid foundation for the

government's dealings with the voluntary sector... and one of the

major early tests of the government's partnership approach will be

the Welfare to Work programme. This government has come to office

with a fundamental commitment to tackle unemployment and the damage

it does, especially to our young people. That is why the focus of

Welfare to Work is the young unemployed.'

The Welfare to Work 'pathfinder' areas come into operation in January

1998 with the scheme being introduced nationally in April. The

government aims to build on existing partnerships wherever possible.

In particular, it wants to ensure that new projects under Welfare to

Work support unemployed people.

Mr Michael emphasised the need for skill and determination to build

regional networks. The government, he said, was committed to

decentralisation and that meant that a regional infrastructure for

the voluntary sector was no longer an optional luxury. It was an

essential part of the armoury, he said.

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