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Voice4Change England Parliamentary Reception House of Commons 4 September 2012

This years Voice4Change parliamentary reception signaled both the launch of two new policy initiatives and the end of a previous era with the departure of former Director and V4CE co-founder, Vandna Gohil.

This years Voice4Change parliamentary reception signaled both the launch of two new policy initiatives and the end of a previous era with the departure of former Director and V4CE co-founder, Vandna Gohil.

Introduced by veteran Cardiff MP Alun Evans, and sponsored by Tennyson’s Insurers, the afternoon event presented the launch of two major policy documents for V4CE. The first, drafted jointly with the Women’s Resource Centre, took up the theme of ‘Big Society and Equalities: The Big Picture’. It principally questioned how the initiative is currently applied in the third sector and how it could be more effectively used to strengthen the sector, given a more creative approach.

The second document – a debating think piece – considered how the BME voluntary and community sector could benefit from the government’s push to create a larger pool of specialist providers and enhance service delivery. It raises serious questions about the importance of: geographical location, support for partnerships, the need for closer working between voluntary and mainstream organisations and the challenge of developing new business models. It also provocatively speculates about the possibility of building a new ‘Big’ BME resource to target disadvantaged community groups.

Alun was forthright in calling for efficiency, fairness in procurement and better value for money for service recipients. However, he also emphasised the need to avoid complacency in believing there would be a

“trickle down from big contracts to smaller contracts from big companies to small companies and voluntary sector organisations. It doesn’t work. It’s not efficient and is dangerous”

Citing the example of Dr Barnardo’s who have withdrawn from working with certain partners in the provision vulnerable children’s services as they now view them as competitors. This for him showed how changes in procurement policy was already having the negative effect of polarising attitudes amongst organisations rather than getting them to work together.

V4CE Chair Elizabeth Balgobin in her remarks took up the issue of the infrastructure support organisations directly, asserting

“It’s about real people. That’s who we exist to support. As an infrastructure organisations we might seem a bit removed, but if we didn’t do what we do then their needs would go unnoticed until something awful happens like a riot. Waiting for things to go wrong and then spending money to try and fix things is not efficient, or effective.

Out –going V4CE Director Vandna Gohil, added forcefully that:

“the most marginalised communities need to be heard by those in the corridors of power. So that services are designed to meet their needs successfully.

Big Society provides further evidence that specialist services are needed and that inequality does exist. ”Vandna expressed her pleasure at having worked on the project jointly with the Woman’s Resource Centre and having Rebecca Viezy present representing the WRC.

She ended by saying

“The successful, multicultural Olympic Games and Paralympics has highlighted the compelling value of volunteers and the voluntary sector, as well as the need for Britain to invest in a framework of support in order to bring long-term success. We believe the lessons here should be extended into the government’s agenda of trying to reform our public services.

Before the close of the event Issan Ghazni was introduced as the new Interim Director for V4CE. Issan. He said he felt really privileged to be offered this role. He acknowledged the sector is going through a very challenging time and there are lots and lots of issues to deal with, underpinned by a policy landscape that is constantly changing.


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