Compact and You

What is the Compact?
Who does it apply to?
How can we ensure government implements the Compact?
Is it a legally binding document? Is it linked to law?
What are the issues being faced by BME VCS organisations?
How can the Compact help to resolve these issues?
What if I am a local organisation?
I now know about the Compact. How shall I use it?

What is the Compact?
The Compact is an agreement between government and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in England. It sets out commitments on both sides to improve the way in which the Government and the VCS work together for the benefit of communities and citizens.

The Compact recognises shared values, principles and commitments and sets out guidelines for how both parties should work together effectively and harmoniously.

The Compact commitments are divided into five sections:

  1. A strong, diverse and independent civil society
  2. Effective and transparent design and development of policies, programmes and public services
  3. Responsive and high-quality programmes and services
  4. Clear arrangements for managing changes to programmes and services
  5. An equal and fair society

To find out more about the Compact visit the Compact Voice website.

Who does it apply to?
The Compact applies to the Coalition Government, their associated Non-Departnmental Public Bodies, Arms Length Bodies and Executive Agencies, and civil society organisations which include charities, social enterprises and voluntary and community groups.

How can we ensure government implements the Compact?
The Compact is supplemented by accountability measures to strengthen the implementation of the Compact across government and to increase transparency around its implementation.

To read more about the measures visit the Holding Government to Account page.

We also run a Compact Referral Service to provide you with advice and representation when pursuing a challenge for Compact non-compliance by government and public bodies.

Is it a legally binding document? Is it linked to law?
No. the Compact is a voluntary agreement between the two parties.

However the Compact’s voluntary status does not mean it does not have to be followed. The Compact is underpinned by public law principles, which set out how public bodies are legally obliged to behave. Government has signed up to the Compact thereby creating a legitimate expectation that it will abide by the commitment. Failure to abide may provide recourse for VCOs to legal remedies. Furthermore the equality section of the Compact requires compliance with the Equality Act 2010. Thus breach of the Compact may establish a breach of the law.

The Compact has been cited in the judgments of a number of legal cases including the Southall Black Sisters case.

To find out more about public law visit the Public Law Project website.

Voice4Change England is providing training on Public Law and the Compact. To find out more visit the Compact and Public Law Training Events page

What are the issues being faced by BME VCOs?
The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) VCS has long faced a host of issues:

  • It has been historically underfunded and excluded from commissioning processes.
  • The mainstreaming of equalities sees the de-politicising of race.
  • It has long campaigned to tackle racism, inequality and exclusion but these problems still persist.
  • It is excluded from effective engagement due to limited capacity and exclusion from VCS structures.
  • It is undervalued and often detached at Government and mainstream level.
  • Different BME VCOs have different expertise and needs yet race is often treated as a homogenous issue.

How can the Compact help to resolve these issues?
The Compact can:

  • Achieve strengthened working relationships between public bodies and the BME VCS.
  • Achieve informed policy decisions based on the expert knowledge of frontline and grassroots community organisations.
  • Achieve better services that reflect the needs of your users and beneficiaries.
  • Ensure fairer funding decisions.
  • Facilitate involvement in local decision-making processes at local government level.
  • Tackle inequality and discrimination often faced by BME VCOs in funding relationships with public bodies and in consultation for policy designs.
  • Provide recourse to challenge funding decisions and ultimately strengthen relations with funders.
  • Provides recourse to challenge bad practice by public bodies.
  • Provide recourse to public law remedies.

What if I am a local organisation?
The majority of BME VCOs are small locally based organisations.

Local Compacts can be used to strengthen partnership between locally based BME VCOs and local public bodies, such as local authorities.

All areas across England have local Compacts. They are based on the same values and commitments as the national Compact. However they do vary in different areas to reflect local needs and issues.

You will be able to download a copy of your local Compact on your local authorities website.

If you feel you have any Compact issues and you would like some advice on how you can use your local Compact to resolve such issues contact V4CE will work with Compact Voice to identify where the Compact is failing in local areas and to initiate negotiations to make improvements.

I now know about the Compact. How shall I use it? 
The Compact should be used right from the very start of any relationship between BME VCOs and public bodies.

Start by reading and understanding the national Compact and then looking at your local Compact. The local Compact should be your first point of reference when forming partnerships with public bodies or when issues arise within that partnership. If it does not help you refer to the national Compact. 

You can then:

  • Take it to meetings with public bodies to use as a tool for partnership working.
  • Use it as a guide to develop good relationships with funding bodies.
  • Use it to challenge bad practice by a public body or another VCO.
  • Use it to resolve disputes with funders and policy makers.
  • Use it to develop good practice within your organisation – implement the commitments for the civil society organisations outlined in the Compact.

To see how you can use the Compact commitments in different relations with public bodies visit the Key Commitments page.