access| home| news| sitemap| search| FAQ| help| complaints| feedback|
Policy NewsNews RSS Feedspacer
Toggle Search Options
Big Society Bank gets green light shimAdd News283 to Scrapbook
Minister for the Cabinet Office Francis Maude has endorsed the outline proposals for the development of a Big Society Bank presented by its Independent Advisers.

He has also directed the Big Lottery Fund to establish an interim Investment Committee which will use dormant account money it has received to start making investments from this summer.
The Big Society Bank will become fully operational once it has received State Aid approval and Financial Services Authority authorisation. It will not make grants. The bank will instead provide equity and loan capital to social enterprise funds and other intermediaries, equity finance for infrastructure organisations and underwriting for experimental products. 
Nick Hurd, Minister for Civil Society, said: "We want to make it easier for social entrepreneurs to access capital, and we want savers to have more opportunities to invest for good. Today’s announcements are a significant step forward in delivering on our commitments."
Over time the Big Society Bank will be capitalised with an estimated £400 million from unclaimed assets in dormant bank accounts, and £200 million from the UK’s largest banks. It will have around 40 staff. 
A Roundtable Discussion on Equality, Big Society and Localism shimAdd News282 to Scrapbook

10th June 2011, St Thomas Centre, Manchester

To book contact Mohammed Dhalech on email: or Tel: 01695 584 765

The Centre for Local Policy Studies (CLPS) and the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) are carrying out a research study for NWIP (the partnership of Voluntary and Community Sector Organisations in the North West).

The aim of the research is to fully understand how the current government's policies affect:

· people who are defined as having protected characteristics under the Equality Act (this covers disability, race, sex, sexual orientation, maternity and pregnancy, gender reassignment, faith and belief and Age)

· the capacity of the voluntary and community sector to support equality and meet the needs of vulnerable or marginalised communities in the North West.

In order to gather evidence there will be a number of roundtable discussions (approximately 2 hours long) focussed on specific equalities issues. This roundtable is part of a series which will be organised around disability, race, sex, age (young people), age (older people), sexual orientation, trans people and faith communities.

Each roundtable will look at five central areas of Government policy (each topic will be introduced by a member of the research team):

· Welfare reforms

· Health and social care reforms

· Localism and the changes to local service provision

· Economic development, with an emphasis on the Local Growth White Paper

· Big Society

It is a big agenda and participants will be guided through the focus groups to explore those issues that cause greatest concern.


Further information about the research is available from VSNW's website:

Strengthening North West Women's Voices shimAdd News281 to Scrapbook

27 May 2011 09:30 - 15:30 at St Thomas Centre, Ardwick Green North, Manchester, M12 6FZ


This event, supported by One North West, Voluntary Sector North West and Oxfam, will be an opportunity to learn about key policy areas affecting women in the UK and to explore the impact, barriers and opportunities of flagship Government policies on women and women's Voluntary and Community Sector groups in the NW. They will also discuss real opportunities to influence current policies.

Keynote speakers include Helene Reardon-Bond, Head of UK Women at Government Equalities Office and Charlotte Gage, Women's Resource Centre's Policy Officer.

Helenewill introduce the Government consultation on Strengthening Women's Voices in Government and outline the Government's proposals for a new approach for engaging and listening to women and Charlotte will be outlining barriers, challenges and opportunities to influence current policy impacting on women and women's organisations.

Speakers also include Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central and Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The morning session will outline key issues for the women's VCS sector. The implications of Government policy relating to 'Localism', welfare and health reforms and current economic policy will be outlined and discussed in further detail. Participants will be able to feed into research which seeks to develop a politically relevant set of equalities indicators.

In the afternoon, participants will have opportunity to feed in directly to the Government Equalities Office consultation on Strengthening Women's Voices in Government. This consultation seeks views on the Government's proposals to develop new methods of engaging with women, to ensure an effective dialogue about the key issues of concern to women of all ages and backgrounds in the UK today and ask for your views on the challenges and priorities.

This event is free and open to all representatives from women's voluntary and community, campaigning, faith and social enterprise groups in the North West. Lunch and refreshments will be provided and there will also be alimited budget availablefor reimbursement of childcare costs but this must be booked in advance.

To book a place, complete the booking form:

For further information, email: or call 0161 861 7940

To see the full agenda please see: Full Agenda

Big Society Accountability: Equality to Fairness shimAdd News280 to Scrapbook

The Government says that: ‘equality is at the heart of this coalition Government. It is fundamental to building a strong economy and a fair society.'' However, the evidence for this commitment is far from compelling and the current political climate is a challenging one for equality.

The Government is moving away from equality legislation that has been developed over many years. Theresa May, the Equalities Minister, has stated that the Government favour 'a greater focus on "fairness" rather than "equality", arguing that many people felt alienated by the equality agenda'. Equality is rather unhelpfully being presented as a bureaucratic burden, rather than as a means of improving our society and tackling the inequalities that are well evidenced in all social indicators.

Fairness has no legislative framework in the way that equality does and this shift undermines equality of opportunity and the protection of human rights. Fairness lacks legal definition and as such is a highly contestable notion and one that provides a vehicle for making moral and politicised judgements. The subjective nature of fairness can be seen through David Cameron's statement that: ‘Fairness means giving people what they deserve and what people deserve depends on how they behave'

This is being done as there is a shift to a new Big Society accountability, which promotes a vision of a vibrant voluntary and community sector challenging unequal outcomes. However, there are potential problems with this approach.

This briefing explores this further

Resource on Localism available shimAdd News278 to Scrapbook

"I am a confirmed localist, committed to turning
Britain's pyramid of power on its head.”
(David Cameron, 17 Feb 2009,
The Guardian)


Localism is a key Government principle and agenda.

As a principle, Localism is about giving more power to local people and local institutions while addressing the over-centralisation of Government. It runs throughout the rhetoric of Government policy, intertwined with "decentralisation”, and is put forward as a core principle. For instance, the Health Reforms talk about giving local GPs more power, and building a bottom-up process rather than imposing a top-down framework.

For some, localism and decentralisation can be used to justify actions that are likely to dismantle the state. For others, localism is an agenda that local communities and the local voluntary and community sector should seek to develop and take more control over.

Arguably, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is doing most to define what Localism is and how it should be developed as a formal agenda in its own right. DCLG are the sponsor department for the The Localism Bill which will provide the legal foundation for the localism agenda.


VSNW has produced an excellent resource to support organisations to speak to their MPs about some of the key challenges. This can be found here: 


VSNW’s guide to the Localism Bill, highlights six key areas to the Bill and proposes six principles that could shape and define "Localism”:

Principle 1: "That Localism is open and inclusive for all local people"

Principle 2: "Communities should have a say in making decisions that affect them"
Principle 3: "Local services should be shaped by and accountable to local communities"
Principle 4: "That Localism promotes a caring and broad sense of community"
Principle 5: "That the assets of the state are owned on behalf of our communities"
Principle 6: "That Localism builds local strength without becoming solely inward-looking"



Gypsy and Traveller concerns raised in parliament from IRR shimAdd News276 to Scrapbook
A group of academics, lawyers and campaigners has produced a report on the coalition government's policy on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers. undefined undefined

The report, A Big or Divided Society is based on hearings which took place earlier this year in parliament where Gypsies, Travellers, service providers, legal and academic experts gave evidence on the implications of proposed government policy. The hearings were organised around the themes of accommodation planning, enforcement, health, children, welfare and education issues related to accommodation. And highlighted concerns including:

  • The fact that removal of central government obligations for Traveller sites to be developed would see site construction come to a standstill;
  • That local referenda could be used to block the construction of Traveller sites;
  • That Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities could be prevented from becoming part of the Big Society because of negative media coverage and the lack of constituted community groups;
  • That key health and education services for Gypsies, Roma and Travellers were being threatened by the cuts.

Lord Avebury told IRR News: 'Eric Pickles, the minister responsible for Gypsies and Travellers, has torn up the strategy that had been developed over the last six years of the previous government, riding roughshod over Liberal Democrat policy of keeping the target numbers of pitches. Now, it's up to every local authority to decide how much land it will allocate for Gypsy sites and, inevitably, most of them will scale down the numbers or eliminate them altogether as in the case of London. At the same time they are encouraging local authorities to evict Gypsies from unauthorised sites at enormous cost in bailiffs and police. And the pupil premium, intended to help disadvantaged children, will leave out many Gypsy children who don't attend school because their families have been evicted and they're on the roadside.'

Susan Alexander of the Travellers Aid Trust commented: 'For a number of years there have been sustained efforts by politicians and councils across the political spectrum to work in partnership with Gypsy Roma Traveller communities and improve their access to services, make them part of the community and reduce tensions. However, genuine fears are expressed in the report that the Localism Bill currently passing through parliament could mean greater local opposition to sites and services for this minority and run counter to the ideals of a Big Society 

For the interim report, please see: 

Health update from VSNW shimAdd News275 to Scrapbook

The ‘Listening Exercise' is well underway with the Future Forum already filling twitter and on line forums with opportunities to respond. VSNW will be supporting the sector in the North West to respond but we would also encourage you to make your own contributions – see below for how to take part. A couple of papers which might help inform your thoughts are

VSNW along with our colleagues in Regional Voices has been concerned for sometime about third sector representation on Health and Wellbeing Boards. Regional Voices wrote to Andrew Lansley requesting that more guidance be given to local authorities on third sector involvement.

The response was not as positive as we would have wished and highlighted that the sector should look to have an increased role in the development of Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNA). VSNW are keen to hear of your experiences regarding involvement in the ongoing development of the new Health and Wellbeing Boards as well as with JSNA's. A JSNA Best Practice Guide: Springboard for Action has been produced for the new Health & Wellbeing Boards and is a useful resource in explaining JSNA's and their anticipated increased importance. Download from:

Margaret McLeod – Policy and Network Officer (Health and Social Care) email:

One North West response to Government policy review of Equality Act shimAdd News274 to Scrapbook

One North West supports the Government’s aim of making equality more meaningful. However, we feel that the policy review paper’s proposals to remove key elements of the delegated legislation that is intended to give effect to the specific equality duties will undermine this aim. It will also contradict the Government’s commitment outlined in the Equality Strategy that: ‘Equality is at the heart of this Government.'

 The evidence of inclusion and transparent decision making is not arbitrary bureaucracy or part of ‘unnecessary process requirements’, but rather, a critical function of democratically accountable governance. The proposed changes will serve to weaken equality objectives and undermine the aims of promoting democratic accountability, transparency and the effective and efficient delivery of public services to all communities in a way that promotes the general duty.

For the full response please see here


Warning that EMA replacement 'could be discriminatory' shimAdd News273 to Scrapbook

Plans to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance could lead to unintended discrimination, according to a government equalities assessment.

It says discrimination could occur because schools and colleges will decide which students get bursaries.

Sixteen to 19-year-olds in full-time education or training will be able to apply for the money for the coming academic year.

The assessment says the government is considering "some central arbitration".

The Equality Impact Assessment says the process is open to unintended discrimination on the basis of disability, gender or ethnicity.


The Department for Education is to set up bursaries totalling £180m a year to replace the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which was worth £500m a year.

They are designed to help young people who face financial difficulties stay on in education.

Announcing the plans to the House of Commons in March, Education Secretary Michael Gove said schools and colleges would have the freedom to allocate the bursaries because they were best placed to know the specific needs of their students.

He added then: "We will give professionals full flexibility over allocating support."

Andy Burnham, shadow education secretary responded saying: 'He has taken a successful scheme that was good value for the taxpayer and turned it into a complete shambles”

The Impact Assessment says : "We will consider whether there should be some central arbitration of the discretionary administration of funding or at least ensure transparency of administration to evaluate the impact achieved by providers, including value for public money."

A Department for Education spokesman said: "As we have always said schools and college will have freedom in how they allocate the bursaries to their students. We want to work with colleges to make sure that money is fairly allocated.

"The fact is consultation has not yet finished but we will consider what mechanism might help support colleges and students in making sure the money gets to those who need it."

The government's consultation on how the bursary scheme will work comes to an end this month.

The assessment goes on to say the new scheme will deliver better value for money. It says while some young people will get less money there is no evidence the changes in financial support will have a disproportionate effect on those with disabilities, learning difficulties, or on either gender or those of different ethnicities.

The shadow education secretary Andy Burnham said: "Michael Gove promised a better scheme for the poorest young people but now his own department says it is open to discrimination.

"He has taken a successful scheme that was good value for the taxpayer and turned it into a complete shambles."

James Mills, from the campaign to keep the EMA, said: "We have been saying since day one that there would be grave equality issues brought up by removing EMA and the government has finally admitted this by whispering it out in their own Equality Impact Assessment hoping no one would notice."


Voice 4 Change respond to Community Right to Challenge consultation shimAdd News272 to Scrapbook