Press release, 12 October 2015

Think tank calls for evidence as it extends independence watch to cover ‘critical 18 months’

Civil Exchange is extend its watch over the voluntary sector’s relationship with government over claims the coming 18 months will be critical in defining the sector’s future independence.

Civil Exchange plans to build on the work of the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, which came to an end when it published its final report, An Independent Mission: the voluntary sector in 2015, in February this year.

It will produce two further annual assessments of the independence of the voluntary sector and its relationship with the state and is inviting evidence now.

Civil Exchange director Caroline Slocock said:

“The next 18 months will be critical for the voluntary sector’s independence and we will be keeping a very close eye on developments and documenting them in two new reports.

“David Cameron has said he wants a ‘smarter state,’ in which government and the voluntary sector work collaboratively to help those who are ‘hardest to reach,’ but this would require a huge shift in culture and practice.  We will be exploring whether recent negative trends can be reversed – which include contract terms and legislation that restrict the sector’s independent voice; reduced consultation; and weak protections and regulation to stop state interference.  We will also look at whether devolution will make genuine collaboration easier.

“We’ll also be considering whether the voluntary sector and its regulators are doing all they can to maintain the sector’s independent mission.  Some big charities have come under increasing fire in recent months, raising legitimate questions about whether they are genuinely following their mission and values in everything they do.”

Civil Exchange will deliver two annual reports in early 2016 and 2017, filling the gap between the Panel on Independence, which concluded last February, and the expected launch of a new independent commission on the future of the voluntary sector in 2017.

As well as providing an annual assessment of the sector’s independence, the two reports will review developments in the wider relationship of the state and voluntary sector, including what has happened to the Big Society – which was included in the Conservative election manifesto – and will look at promising opportunities as well as threats. Before the election, Civil Exchange produced three earlier annual Big Society Audits, the last one of which, Whose Society?  The Final Big Society Audit, published in January last year.

Ms Slocock concluded: “If you’ve got examples of what’s working or not working or just have views, do let us know, so we can build them into the reports.”

The new reports are supported by the Baring Foundation and the LlankellyChase Foundation.

Notes to Editors

  1. Individuals and organisations wishing to contribute evidence or views on the above themes should contact Civil Exchange via
  1. Civil Exchange was established to help government and the voluntary sector work better together by:
  • Identifying opportunities and new ways of working.
  • Breaking down barriers and increasing understanding of what each needs from each other.
  • Raising everyone’s awareness of the added value of a vibrant voluntary sector to government and society.
  1. Civil Exchange produced Whose Society? The Final Big Society Audit in January this year. The report found the high profile Government project had delivered some positive initiatives but not delivered the radical change that David Cameron, and governments before him, had promised.
  1. Details about the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector, including it final report, An Independent Mission: the voluntary sector in 2015, can be found at
  1. David Cameron delivered a speech, My Vision for a Smarter State:, said that “we need to do more to encourage departments, local authorities and charities to work together collaboratively” as part “a whole government approach rather than a series of piecemeal and inconsistent interventions” for those “who are hardest to reach.”