Women's Voluntary Organisations

Oral Answers to Questions — Duchy of Lancaster – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 1 April 2009.

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Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough 11:30, 1 April 2009

What discussions he has had with women's voluntary organisations on the effect of local authority procurement practices on them; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Third Sector)

I meet a wide range of third sector organisations, including women's groups, through the Government's national programme for third sector commissioning. We are engaging with local authority and other public sector commissioners on how to improve practice towards the third sector. That includes recent work with the Women's National Commission on embedding key messages and sharing good practice on equalities in commissioning and procurement.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

I thank the Minister for that reply, but at a recent meeting that I had with a number of women's voluntary organisations, including Women's Aid, I heard that the shift from grant-funded services to procurement has actually damaged the sector by requiring a one-size-fits-all response. That has led to a cut from 35 to 15 in black and minority ethnic specialist organisations, and a requirement that Women's Aid provides for male victims of domestic violence, as well as women victims. Will he, and Department for Communities and Local Government representatives, agree to meet people from that sector to discuss whether we could have a better framework for commissioning those important services?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Third Sector)

We already have in place a national programme for improving commissioning, which has had the opportunity to train more than 1,000 commissioners across the country, including on the matters that my hon. Friend mentioned. However, I understand the issue that she raises, and I would be happy to meet her and any representatives that she would like to bring in from Women's Aid or other organisations to discuss her concerns, possibly on a cross-Government basis, to make sure that the other Departments concerned are represented, and to talk further about the issues that she raised.

Photo of Ann Winterton Ann Winterton Conservative, Congleton

Is the Minister aware of the problems facing many women's voluntary organisations, such as the excellent Cheshire Federation of Women's Institutes, as a result of the reorganisation of local government in Cheshire? That adds extra expense, and means extra effort, for that organisation and many other voluntary organisations, because whereas they previously had one set of contacts at Cheshire county council, they now have to duplicate all efforts with Cheshire East and Cheshire West councils. Why did the Government go down that path?

Photo of Kevin Brennan Kevin Brennan Parliamentary Secretary (Cabinet Office) (Third Sector)

I hesitate to revisit the issue of the local government reorganisation that is coming into force today, just as I would hesitate to take on the Cheshire Federation of Women's Institutes in any way, shape or form, but I note the hon. Lady's remarks, and I am sure that the House does, too.