SCVO Depute Director, Stephen Maxwell, calls for a strategic approach to supporting the social economy and regeneration.
Scottish Regeneration Magazine, Spring 2004
Since the launch of the Urban Programme (UP) in the 1960s, the voluntary sector has been acknowledged as an important partner in urban and rural regeneration. Its role in the UP was to pioneer local services which if effective would be absorbed at the end of their dedicated funding into mainstream services. While the initial emphasis of UP was on social development, in the 1980s the sector was encouraged to pursue local economic development as a complement. Then in the later 1980s the New Life for Urban Scotland programme promoted a more rounded vision of regeneration, involving a wide range of development factors including the active involvement of the local community. The voluntary sector’s role was extended to embrace the mobilisation and representation of local communities of place and interest
This role was continued in the multi-agency Social Inclusion Partnerships introduced in 1998. And it has been reinforced in the recent legislation and guidance for Community Planning. Whatever the practical problems for voluntary organisations in engaging in these complex new structures they are officially invited to take their place ‘at the heart’ of the process.
Approaching the watershed
But as attention has focused on new structures including most recently the integration of the SiPs with Community Planning, the policy context for the voluntary sector has been rapidly changing.
2004 promises to be a watershed year. At least four major policies for the sector will pass critical thresholds. The starter came in January with the re-launch of the Scottish Compact setting out a framework for the management of the relationship between the voluntary sector and the Executive backed up for the first time by an implementation plan and a monitoring programme. In February the Executive’s implementation plan for the social economy review was due to be published. At the same time the Scottish plan for the use of the Futurebuilders’ budget to extend the capacity of the voluntary sector in public services is to be announced. Some time in the early summer the Executive will publish a consultative bill for the reform of Scottish charity law, with a full Executive Bill to follow in the autumn. Depending on the agreement of the partners in local government and the Executive, the results of an Executive led review on the strategic funding of the voluntary sector will be published before winter.
This is an impressive portfolio of policies representing a substantial commitment of Executive and Parliamentary time and effort. And it is backed up by a signjficant financial commitment. The implementation of the social economy review has a £6m budget over three years. The Futurebuilders programme has a £12m budget over two years. Current Executive commitments to reform the regulation of Scottish charities are likely to claim another £1 m plus a year from 2004/5.
And the Executive’s interest in the sector ranges even more widely.
The Wider Action programme to extend the role of housing associations in community regeneration provides further support for the sector with a committed budget of no less than £24m 2003/4-5/6.
The Executive and its public bodies is providing £6-700,000 in match funding to the EQUAL programme for growing the local social economy.
The Community Empowerment Fund has an annual budget of £3.6m 2004/5 to promote the engagement of communities of place and interest in Community Planning structures.
A budget of £1.3m is available to promote the role of community based voluntary organisations in the delivery of local services.
£1/2m.is available this year and next to national voluntary sector intermediary organisations to promote the engagement of their local member organisations in Community Planning.
The policy justifications for these varied policy streams are diverse, including the extension of the voluntary sector’s role in public service provision, combating social exclusion, the encouragement of volunteering opportunities, and strengthening Scottish civil society.
The relative importance of urban regeneration in this portfolio of policies for the voluntary sector is obscure. In the Executive’s Review of the Social Economy, published last February, the main focus was on extending the role of the sector in public services with community regeneration as a secondary theme. The major funding streams for promoting the social economy – attached to the social economy review implementation fund and the Futurebuilders fund -have no specific regeneration targets attached to them.
Recently published research by the Training and Employment Research Unit for Community Enterprise in Strathclyde – Revaluing the Social Economy – suggests that the regeneration effect of an expansion of voluntary sector activity cannot be taken for granted. One of the ways in which voluntary organisations claim to contribute to regeneration is by employing people from disadvantaged areas to deliver services to those areas. The research suggests that the growth in the sector since 1997 has been accompanied by a decline in the proportion of its labour force that it recruits from disadvantaged areas, down from 32% in 1997 to just 16% in 2003. And the sector’s claim to create social capital for disadvantaged areas is damaged by a comparable reduction in the proportion of volunteers it recruits from disadvantaged areas from 53% to 27%. In the absence of a more focused Executive policy, there is a danger that Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities will fail to enjoy their proper share of benefit from the extra investment that the Executive is making in the voluntary sector.
But the remedy is within the Executive’s reach. The resources committed to the promotion of community engagement with Community Planning should be used to maximise the capacity of disadvantaged local communities not only to think and speak for themselves, to CP Partnerships and beyond, but also to act for themselves. Realistically local communities can expect only modest returns on their input to the complex processes of Community Planning. While that remains an essential role, communities would enjoy greater returns from investment in building a capacity to generate new local economic initiatives, for example delivering local social care or health services, meeting local needs neglected by the private sector, or developing a locally controlled asset base.
The creation of a multipurpose infrastructure in Scotland’s disadvantaged communities, accountable to and managed by the communities themselves, would both reinforce the legitimacy of communities’ representation in CP Partnerships and give them a base from which to claim their due share of the new funds which the Executive has committed to promoting Scotland’s social economy. Urban regeneration and the development of the social economy are two distinct policy themes with separate policy objectives but they should be reinforcing each other rather than developing along parallel lines.
Source: Scottish Regeneration Magazine, Spring 2004