voluntary sector nationally and in a strengthened regional network,
home office minister Alun Michael told a conference in Manchester
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.
'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.