Policy update // PM unveils ‘shared society’ and aims for Brexit negotiations
A round up of Locality’s policy and influencing work, including our key priorities this month, and how you can get involved.
Our ‘shared society’
Theresa May used her first key speech of the new year last week to set out her vision for a ‘shared society’.
Speaking at the Charity Commission, Theresa May echoed her first speech as prime minister as she spoke of her ambition to tackle the ‘burning injustices in society‘. She called for a ‘shared society’ based on common responsibilities and a commitment to fairness, with a role for the government to ‘correct the injustice and unfairness that divides us wherever it is found’.
May highlighted the role of charities and social enterprises in supporting some of the most vulnerable in society, but also spoke of the need for government to also ‘step in’ with a focus on supporting those people who are ‘just about managing’ (now known as the JAMs). The weary among us will say we have been here before of course, with the Big Society (although May was careful to draw some distinctions from her predecessor’s vision) and we will all be watching to see how this agenda develops.
As part of the shared society vision, Theresa May has also outlined government commitments on tackling mental health – with a particular focus on prevention in workplaces, schools and communities. Community organisations play a vital role in supporting people across a range of issues affecting their mental health, but these services are also being squeezed by local budgets. Through our member network on Health and Wellbeing we are using our collective influencing voice to show the impact of community-led approaches to delivering health and wellbeing outcomes. Contact to join the network and to be part of this work.
This week, the Prime Minister also delivered a speech outlining some of the key terms for Britain’s exit from the European Union. She confirmed that Britain will not be remaining part of the the single market, and will instead pursue free trade agreements with European countries and those outside Europe. She also announced an end to free movement and new restrictions on migration from the EU, and has confirmed that Parliament will be given a vote on the final Brexit deal. Beyond the agreement already announced that EU structural and investment funds signed before the end of last year will be protected by the Treasury, there is as yet no long term clarity over how the services and research currently funded by the EU will be supported in the future. This is something we will be continuing to lobby government for.
What is clear is that if Theresa May wants to build a fairer country post-Brexit on the foundations of a shared society, commitment from government in supporting a strong and sustainable community sector must be a central part of this vision. Throughout 2017 we have some key campaigns and influencing work which will be demonstrating how to build a more inclusive economy, strengthen community empowerment and support neighbourhood resilience. We’ll be continuing to call for £1bn investment for communities to own and protect their valued local assets; we’re establishing a Commission on Localism to examine how power is dispersed through the country to give people more of a stake in the decisions that affect them; and we’ll be working with local authorities to show how commissioning can secure local economic resilience and build healthy communities.
Rob Wilson announces programme to increase commissioning with small and medium sized voluntary organisations
In December, the Office for Civil Society (OCS) announced a programme to support the involvement of small charities in public services – including a new ‘commissioning kitemark’ to demonstrate best practice in commissioning and a ‘public service incubator’ to support charities and commissioners to collaborate to improve public services, as well as producing evidence and guidance. Leading up to the announcement, Locality have been working with a coalition of organisations including NCVO, Charity Finance Group, and Lloyds Bank Foundation, to feed in recommendations to the OCS.
Addressing the barriers which small and medium sized organisations face in the commissioning process is a core part of the challenge. Our Keep it Local campaign demonstrates the need for public services which are delivered at a local level, co-produced with communities and responsive to local need and we will continue to feed evidence in to the new public services programme to call for smarter commissioning through sustainable, community-based delivery.
Our Places and Spaces campaign continues: write to your MP to put community assets on the political agenda
We are asking members to help us put community assets firmly on the political agenda in 2017 by writing to your MP about our Places and Spaces campaign. Take action by filling in our template letter. Support from parliamentarians across all parties will help us make sure our ambitious Community Assets Investment Plan is achieved.
In case you missed it – this blog post from December on the ‘12 days of community assets’ is the perfect read to brighten up January with stories of community assets which are transforming communities across the country.