What next for the Big Unfair Society campaign?

Vandna Gohil, Director of Voice4Change England thanks the sector for supporting the Big Unfair Society campaign and shares plans for what the campaign has in store this summer.

On 23 March BME voluntary and community sector organisations and supporters attended a Voice4Change England parliamentary reception hosted by Virendra Sharma MP. We had just heard the devastating news that not only Voice4Change England, but no equality-led organisations would be OCS strategic partners from 1 April 2011. The mood was clear: that this was a regression from the previous programme; and of further disappointment with the Coalition Government’s approach to equality (see our post the Equality Act is not regulation - it is primary legislation).

As a membership organisation and policy voice for the Black and Minority Ethnic voluntary and community sector we know that without representation at a strategic level the BME voluntary and community sector struggles to get its voice heard.

So we decided to do something about it. On 28 March we launched our Big Unfair Society campaign calling for the Office for Civil Society to:

1. Reinstate Voice4Change England as a strategic partner.

2. Use the underspend from the Strategic Partners’ Transition Programme to support equality led organisations.

3. Directly engage equality led organisations in policy development and programme delivery.

Since then there has been an incredible groundswell of support from the sector. We have had 331 signatories to our campaign petition and 26 MPs have signed up to EDM 1666 calling for our reinstatement. There have been numerous messages of support, tweets and press coverage including support from a few of the re-confirmed Strategic Partners. We formally handed our findings to Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd MP at a visit we coordinated with the Asian People’s Disability Alliance on 5 April.

On 5 May Third sector reported Nick Hurd MP as saying that there was no chance that OCS would reinstate strategic partnership funding to the equalities organisations that lost out (Funding cut to equalities groups will not be reversed, says Nick Hurd). We have not yet heard this news formally from OCS but obviously are disappointed if we have not effectively shown OCS the need to have equality-led organisations engaged at a strategic level to influence the Big Society agenda.

However, we still believe our campaign and its supporters can make a difference. In the Third Sector interview Nick Hurd MP talks about the potential to commission specific work from the equalities organisations and Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO has written to OCS proposing they fund an equalities consortia (Hurd urged to reinstate strategic partnership funding to equalities groups). Watch this space for developments however, until then we continue with our Big Unfair Society campaign.

Vandna Gohil,
Voice4Change England
10 May 2011