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Chief Minister addresses the Association of Guernsey Charities and the agreed 'Social Compact'

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Thursday 25 September 2014

The following speech was delivered by the Chief Minister, Deputy Jonathan Le Tocq, to the Association of Guernsey Charities (AGC) Forum on Wednesday 24 September 2014. The agreed Social Compact can be found at the bottom of the speech.

Thank you to Peter for inviting me to speak this evening. Thank you as well for inviting me to the 30th anniversary reception celebrations. And finally thank you to all of you - for the work that you do and the contribution that you make to our community.

During Volunteer's Week in May this year, I was asked, along with a number of others, to say a few words about volunteering and charities in Guernsey.

I said the following: "That when people off-island ask me what it is that makes our Island so special, my answer is always the same - it is Guernsey's strong sense of community. Everybody in Guernsey makes a contribution to our community - and none more so than those people who day in, day out give help and support to those who need it. Every volunteer has a unique story to tell about what they do and why they do it; and about what they achieve and what they get out of it."

Our community is built on foundations of personal responsibility and self-reliance, but it also has a strong culture of helping others in need whether though volunteering or charitable giving.

Every person on the Island who is involved with charity work gives something to our community. But importantly, they also gain something. The rewards of helping your community through charity last longer than money. The more you are able and ready to give your skills, talents and time to a cause in which you believe the more you will make a connection with your community and other people.

Charity work also teaches us the significance of a simple gesture, and gives us the very healthy habit of giving to others. Those who work for charities, or volunteer for charities, or support charities, are as well-rewarded as those who might work in business, but their rewards are different.

As somebody who served in the States from 2004-08, before returning in 2012; as somebody who has worked for the States as a civil servant; and as somebody who has set-up and worked for charitable organisations in Guernsey, including the Guernsey Community Foundation, I do feel qualified to say one thing: the third sector has never had a higher profile in Guernsey.

But perhaps more importantly, the States has never appreciated more the importance of working with the third sector. Indeed the States Social Policy Plan, published in a Billet 18 months ago, formally recognises that the third sector is a vital enabler in meeting the Plan's general objective of providing "a social environment and culture where there is active and engaged citizenship."

The culmination of that formal recognition is that on Monday the Policy Council decisively agreed the Compact between the States of Guernsey and the voluntary and charitable sector setting out how we can work in closer partnership.

Now I know that the AGC Council signed this off a week or so ago - so even if we are little behind you, it is not by much! In fact, the formal agreement of the Compact will help to ensure that the States of Guernsey and the Guernsey Charities are now moving forwards together - with the same vision, the same objectives, and a relationship of true partnership. A partnership built on openness and trust.

I will come on to the Compact more specifically in a moment, but I do want to pay tribute to the people who have worked so hard to put it in place - through the AGC, and at Sir Charles Frossard House.

It is, as all well know, increasingly unrealistic and unnecessary for the States to do everything. This is not a financial argument, although of course it works in that perspective. It is also a realisation that there are people with better expertise and understanding of what is needed on the Island, and how it can be most effectively and efficiently delivered.

It is my view that the much-discussed Financial Transformation Programme at the States, the FTP, has been all about the 'F' that has been achieved, and people have overlooked the 'T' that has been achieved. I think one measure of true transformation is the recognition now that the States needs to work in partnerships. In that respect, the Compact will be, I hope, ground-breaking, and others will follow.

I was closely involved with the foundation of the Guernsey Community Foundation, because I was and remain a strong supporter of, and advocate for, the voluntary and charitable sector. I can assure you that the discussions that took place with my Policy Council colleagues on Monday confirmed that they share that view. The unanimous and united support that the States Assembly gave our Island's first Disability Strategy demonstrated the depth and breadth of that view in Guernsey.

Now we can say, with absolute certainty, that the States of Guernsey recognises the value of the third sector both in delivering services and fund raising to provide support to individuals and groups.

The AGC's role in this has been vital. It is fair to say that you have been consistent in your view that the States and the third sector must increasingly work together to meet islanders' needs - not in an ad hoc way, but with common aims and purposes.

The importance of the charitable sector Guernsey is demonstrated by the fact that there over 400 charities on our Island. The problem that can bring is being able to ensure that 400 charities' views are taken on board, and that priorities are agreed. Given that the AGC has almost 300 member bodies, it plays a hugely valuable role in co-ordinating the third sector's views and priorities, ensuring that there is a mouth piece for effective dialogue with the States.

Over the past few years in particular, the AGC has been and remains at the forefront of discussions with the States on areas of policy development.

The idea of a formalised Compact arose out of discussions between the AGC, the Community Foundation and the States. As I said, every Minister around the Policy Council table supported it today. Moreover all of the States' departments have been consulted on the Compact - and all have agreed it.

So the Compact is all well and good, but how will it change the way that the States works?

Overall, there will be five over-arching changes in that way that you work with the States:

First it will give you a single point of contact for the voluntary and charitable sector. If you cannot get information, or feedback, or have an idea - you will now have an informed and resourced place to go to in the States.

We will work with you on the way that we manage information. If we have the information and you need it, we will give it to you. If you have information that you can share with us, we will use it.

We will involve you from the start. Bringing you in at the beginning of all new projects will help us and you remove the barriers which might, in the past, have prevented you from making the fullest contribution that you can.

As I said - this is about transforming the way that the States thinks. So where the best outcomes may not result from within the States, consideration will be given to outsourcing to the voluntary and charitable sector, and the subsequent advantage to the community. We will consider ways to support the voluntary and charitable sector through better access to States owned land and premises, transparency in resource allocation and improved provision of information.

In order to support that, the procurement process should be proportionate, fair, transparent and easily accessible online. It should be made as easy as possible for smaller voluntary and charitable sector organisations to be involved in the delivery of services where they are best placed and capable of achieving the desired outcomes in a sustainable manner. The States central guidance on procurement should take account of the differences for the voluntary and charitable sector organisations without compromising the equality of any procurement process. Positive discrimination must be avoided, but recognition should also be given to the unique benefits that can be delivered. Commissioning and procurement should consider the positive social impact on using voluntary and charitable sector organisations.

So five changes:

Five changes, each of which, on its own, would make an important change. But working together, these changes will bring partnership in its truest sense, and transformation of the way that we do things.

Of course we still respect the right of the voluntary and charitable sector to comment on, challenge and seek to influence the States' policies regardless of any contractual or other arrangements. We would neither expect not want that to change. But we are asking for something in return!

Where we work together we want to you to demonstrate proper governance, which includes effective risk management, as well as Service Level Agreements, to protect both the voluntary and charitable sector organisation and the States, and to help to make it clear what is required.

We want you to be as open and transparent as possible. To recognise that monitoring, both internal and external, is an aspect of good management practice.

We want you to publicise your aims in a clear, concise and easy-to-find manner, and keep them up to date.

As I said, we're not asking for you to agree with everything we do, though that would be welcome!  But we would like you to be prepared to promote and respond to relevant consultations or proposals from the States.

If you're receiving resources from the States, we want you to aim to be non-discriminatory, to promote equality, and to build stronger more resilient communities. Such organisations will also acknowledge the legal and financial framework within which the States works.

We understand that sometimes it is most effective to join with other similarly focussed voluntary and charitable sector organisations, and so to this end contact should be made and good relations formed with voluntary and charitable organisations with similar aims.

Where funding is involved, we need you to recognise accountability to the taxpayer as well as to your members.

And we need your continued honesty. A voluntary and charitable sector organisation should not take on a States contract if it is not confident that it can deliver it in a sustainable manner.

So three decades on a great deal has changed, and the AGC had driven a huge amount of that change.

The Compact, then, is not the end of a process but the start of a new process.

Some things, of course, never change. Thirty years ago, when I first started working with charities and community groups, funding was always an issue, and I know that is one of the issues that has never gone away. The people who are speaking at the fundraising forum that you are holding later tonight - Malcolm, Alex Jenner from Guernsey Cheshire Home, who won the charity of the Year award at the Community awards, Connie Armstrong from the Grammar School PTA, Dave Chilton and Jane St Pier; each of them has real expertise. Expertise I wish that I had been able to draw upon thirty years ago.

Thirty years ago our Island was very different to how is now; we can say with certainty that the same will be true in 30 years' time. The continuity that the AGC brings in helping to ensure that all of our communities' needs are recognised is absolutely vital. The will ensure that the states and the charitable sector will work together in a true partnership in order to meet those needs.

We look forward to working with you.

Thank you.


Social Compact

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