Thursday, 14 February 2013

The Condition of Britain

In Barking at the launch of " the Condition of Britain ". ACEVO is working with ippr on this important project, intended to influence policy makers and political parties.

Jon Cruddas MP, who is leading a policy review for the Leader of the Labour Party is speaking at the launch.

Over the next two years we will have to ensure that as the three political parties frame their policy, they understand the potential of the third sector; both in delivering public services that are citizen focused and as champions and advocates.

Only yesterday the PM was exclaiming that "It is good news that volunteering is up and charitable giving is up- the big society is getting bigger." The problem with this sort of political soundbite is that it ignores much of the reality of the third sector experience and the potential we can bring; especially in transforming public services.

But the Labour Party is often no better. They show signs of slipping back to a view on public services that assumes they are best delivered by state employees. But Jon Cruddas has a more open view. He understands the power of citizens taking control. He spoke about the potential of communities, though he spoke only of communities of place. We have to be wary of the romantic notion seen in the Labour Party - and perhaps not only there - that communities of place are always progressive. So many of my members have to deal with the prejudice of many against disability and mental health.

And the Lib-Dems; some good MPs with sector experience but they are sometimes dominated by a " municipalist" tendency because that is their power base and so often see our sector through that prism.

Jon is impressive.  I challenged him on the "producer interest" of the Labour Party and he accepted this is an issue that this project needs to tackle. The project will be led by Nick Pierce- one of the country's best policy brains - and with Ralph Michell, almost certainly the sector's finest policy brain.

My favourite question was from a former priest who said he was fed up by being called a "customer" when he is a citizen and these are his services! Spot on. Exactly the same point needs to be understood by the NHS when they spend the vast majority of our resources on long term conditions but see us all as "patients" not citizens.

So a good start. Though not one graced with coffee. They only managed Nescafe and hot water and the milk ran out. It made me grumpy.

If you want further info go to the ippr website and also contact Ralph Michell at ACEVO

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