10 August 2018

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) have released their Civil Society Strategy. The strategy lays out the Government’s plans for the civil society and is the first such strategy in 15 years.

The strategy is also the Government’s central planning for youth policy, following the decision to abandon the planned youth policy statement in 2017.


The Civil Society Strategy

The strategy seeks to set out the Government’s approach to supporting and developing the United Kingdom’s civil society, which it defines as all organisations delivering social value that are independent of state control. The approach is grouped into five key areas:

People: Enabling a lifetime of contribution (p. 30-49)

  • Place Based Social Action: Programme with Big Lottery Fund to enable community collaboration for VCSE, private, and public organisations
  • Community Organisers: Training 3,500 organisers by 2020
  • DCMS and Department for Education (DfE) collaboration on young people’s social action
  • Establish an independent National Citizen Service Trust
  • A £90 million employability initiative, delivered by a new independent organisation, bringing together major employers and social sector organisations to help disadvantaged young people into work

Places: Empowerment and investment for local communities (p. 51-68)

  • Innovation in Democracy pilot: Participatory democracy approaches to community decision-making
  • DCMS and Ministry for Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) collaborating on a sustainable community spaces programme
  • Improve guidance to help communities take ownership of local assets, such as community buildings
  • Shared Prosperity Fund, the process of developing Local Industrial Strategies, and the review of Local Enterprise Partnerships
  • New community funding models, including social impact investment, charitable funding and corporate investment. Big Society Capital and Access (The Foundation for Social Investment) will devote around £35 million of dormant accounts funding
  • Commitment to support all communities, regardless of circumstance

The Social Sector: Supporting charities and social enterprises (p. 69-88)

  • Commitment to work alongside the social sector to build a strong future, strengthen public trust, as well as find new ways to resource and deliver their work
  • Lobbying and renew its commitment to the principles of the Compact
  • Cross-government group to work with civil society to establish the principles of effective involvement in the policy-making process
  • DCMS to establish a regular forum for social enterprises to coordinate relations with government
  • Charity Commission and UK Community Foundations to release at least £20 million over the next two years from inactive charitable trusts to help community organisations
  • Encouragement of collective giving
  • Joint action to open up trusteeship to people from different backgrounds
  • Work with partners to explore how best to use digital to build a strong and effective social sector

The Private Sector: Promoting business, finance, and tech for good (p. 89-104)

  • Further support for responsible business, including a strategy in 2019
  • Support the Inclusive Economy Partnership
  • Follow up on recommendations from the Social Impact Advisory Group
  • Explore using technology to address complex social issues, including loneliness, healthy ageing, online safety, and digital inclusion
  • New organisation to tackle financial exclusion with Big Lottery Fund and £55 million of dormant accounts funding

The Public Sector: Ensuring collaborative commissioning (p. 105-117)

  • Vision for ‘collaborative commissioning’ public services that includes local organisations
  • Support establishment of mutuals by public sector teams
  • Broaden the range of funding for community initiatives, including grant-making
  • Use public spending to generate social value and increase social value commissioning
  • Expectation that Government departments will apply the terms of the Social Value Act to goods and works, services, and new procurements
  • Look into the use of social value in grants, contracts, planning, and community asset transfer

What it means for the youth sector

The most important section for the youth sector is the first section, People. While the strategy draws together a number of existing programmes and initiatives for young people, it does not introduce any significant new ones.

The strategy is positive about the role and impact of youth work and reiterates a commitment to identifying the positive impact of youth work, including through the Centre for Youth Impact’s creation of a shared impact measurement framework for the youth sector.

The Government reiterates that, despite funding pressures, local authorities retain primary responsibility for local youth services. There is a commitment to review guidance to local authorities on what is expected of them in this area, but no commitment to structurally change or reassess how youth provision is currently delivered.

The strategy welcomes new models for youth provision and mentions the Young People’s Foundation (YPF) model, which was developed by John Lyon’s Charity and has been supported by London Youth.

The most interesting changes are a number of commitments that seek to ensure that young people’s voices are heard in the policy process on decisions that affect them. These include:

  • A commitment to new systems that allow young people to be involved in policy development, including a digital system to include young people in consultations as a first step
  • The creation of a Civil Society Youth Steering Group to oversee the development and implementation of policies affecting young people
  • Establishment of a new national Young Commissioners and Inspectors Group so that young people can be involved in the commissioning and monitoring of programmes involving young people

Samuel Howell, Policy Officer