Children England is happy to see the new Civil Society Strategy describe, and so clearly appreciate, the role of charity and community organisations in our society, from their earliest days establishing the practices that would evolve into today's public services, to their crucial role now in reaching vulnerable people and bringing communities together. We’re particularly pleased to see the importance of voluntary sector campaigning and policy development confirmed so clearly and positively, and look forward to helping affirm this message throughout the children and families sector.

We welcome the ambition to empower local communities, including young people, in decision-making, service commissioning and social action, and hope that through initiatives like the Innovation in Democracy programme meaningful, sustainable participation will become the norm for people of all ages and abilities. As members of the Grants for Good campaign we also welcome the recognition that a thriving civil society needs a re-invigoration of public grant-making, and look forward to supporting the further development of the 'Grants 2.0' initiative described in the strategy.

Collaboration across communities and sectors, particularly in commissioning, is rightly encouraged, and we’re delighted to see a more holistic approach being advocated by government, replacing markets and transactional decision-making with relationship-building and trust between people. Our Declaration of Interdependence has long been the foundation for our own vision for moving away from competitive markets, and remains freely available to help local areas who are keen to take up the government's ambition to move towards more collaborative approaches to meeting our collective responsibilities towards children and families.

At local level, however, communities may feel these aspirations to better ways of working ring hollow without significant reinvestment from the government that claims to see so much potential in them. The strategy’s call to uncover locally available resources and assets is not likely to reassure families in Northamptonshire, East Sussex and now Lancashire, for example, who are already facing the bankruptcy of their local council and even more closures of many vital statutory services. Our members in the children’s voluntary sector, as well as social workers, teachers and so many other professionals and volunteers, who are all vital to a strong civil society, cannot continue to nurture their local communities in the many ways they do if the public finance architecture to support them has crumbled away. Isolated pots of money like the Cultural Development Fund and a £90 million fund for young people’s transition to employment are welcome of course, but are no replacement for sustainable, reliable funding for councils and universal services.