Panel discussion on health at the Labour and Civil Society summit in London, January 2024

The view from Wales

Published: 23/01/24 | Categories: Influencing, Author: Ruth Marks

Ruth Marks, Chief Executive of WCVA, reflects on her involvement in the Labour and Civil Society summit organised by Pro Bono Economics and NCVO.

Feature image: Panel discussion on health moderated by Dr Rubina Ahmed, Blood Cancer UK, with colleagues from charities including BHF, Stem4, and FiveXMore and Wes Streeting MP, Shadow Health Secretary

I have lost count of the number of times I have attended meetings in London that talk about ‘national’ but in reality focus on England only.

Would this event be any different?

The summit was designed around a series of conversations at the heart of civil society and policy making.


Leaders of voluntary organisations told of very real stresses and strains faced by the sector. They also explained the benefits to people and communities of having the sector round the table, helping to shape policy development at its preliminary stages through sharing data and experience.

In his keynote address, Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘This is a once-in-a-generation chance: a mission-led government, a partnership between government and civil society.’

The voluntary sector itself is mission-led, so when any political party talks about mission-led government it naturally invites fruitful conversation. This is especially the case when small, local grassroots groups and support agencies that can draw on lived experience are included.


Health was a focus, particularly the importance of prevention. Our sector can look at the whole person, allowing us to join the dots and offer a positive approach to tackling the social determinants of poor health.

The discussion on crime noted that the overall prison budget can be interpreted as money spent on failure. Listening to young people and involving them in more suitable ways can help to build trust and resilience, leading to positive impacts on community safety.

The conversation on how to break down barriers to opportunities raised issues including early years, apprenticeships, employment and housing.


So, a UK-wide summit, but with a recognition of the vital perspectives that local government and the national governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales can offer where matters are devolved.

The view from Wales has the legal framework of the Third Sector Scheme as a reference point. Since 1999, the voluntary sector has had the opportunity to meet with Welsh Ministers twice a year and work with officials to discuss issues and propose solutions. The best policies are co-produced with input from voluntary organisations that have earned the trust and confidence of people and communities at the sharp end of decision making.

Whenever I speak about the Third Sector Scheme, the unique infrastructure of local support and how Wales-wide organisations collaborate in partnerships around health, community safety, education, resilience – people want to hear more.


WCVA will continue to actively engage with our UK sister partners including SCVO, NICVA and NCVO, as well as the Association of Charitable Foundations, ACEVO, NAVCA and the Charity Finance Group.

When we are offered the chance to take part in meaningful conversations we should take them, build trust, develop relationships and hold decision makers to account.

This was billed as a summit relating to the UK, and Wales has invaluable learnings to contribute to even more meaningful conversations in the future.


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