In September 2017, NPC submitted evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement. The committee was established in response to concerns around social division in the UK, particularly since the 2016 EU referendum and terrorist attacks in Europe. Our evidence focused on the role of civil society in civic engagement.
In our submission we celebrate the role the sector plays in bringing people of different backgrounds and interests together—while acknowledging that the sector can exclude as well as include. Drawing on our recent research in the criminal justice and health sectors, as well as our State of the Sector research, we highlight charities’ independence as part of what makes them distinctive. We also remind the committee that civic engagement through campaigning and activism is an important part of the way charities support civic engagement, but one which may not always be comfortable for governments.
We offer some suggestions of how government can target support where it is needed most, and point out the limits to what the sector can achieve in supporting social cohesion in the context of people’s wider circumstances. Finally, we point out gaps in the evidence around the effectiveness of the National Citizen Service and advocate for a better awareness of the role the wider voluntary sector plays.