The Department of Health will give up to ten voluntary health and social care bodies a maximum of £200,000 each per year to act as a bridge between the DH and the third sector.
These “strategic partners” will advise the DH on issues affecting the third sector and disseminate information to voluntary bodies, including spreading best practice and interpreting departmental health and social care policy.
They will be funded from 2009-10 under a new third sector investment programme, announced last week, to replace the “section 64” general grants scheme, which currently provides core and project funding to third sector bodies for work that supports DH policy.
No increase in overall funding
The overall level of annual funding will remain the same, at £17.2m. Besides the strategic partner scheme, resources will be provided for groundbreaking projects, those that have already improved outcomes and initiatives to develop third sector capacity, under an “innovation, excellence and service development fund”.
To be eligible for either scheme, organisations must demonstrate they will further DH policy aims under one of five themes: information, advice and advocacy; personalisation, dignity and carer support; community/user participation and peer support; prevention/early intervention, and reducing health inequalities.
All projects must have the potential to make a national impact, either through their scope or potential to develop transferable good practice.
Lack of co-ordination
The reforms follow a consultation launched last year on reforming section 64, in which the DH said that the existing scheme did not provide a sufficiently co-ordinated approach to funding the third sector. Core grants were largely not linked to defined outputs or outcomes and lacked transparency and rigour, while project grants lacked robust evaluation.
Respondents to the consultation broadly backed the move towards funding strategic partners, but stressed that they must retain their independence and not become a “cosy partner” who fears losing their funding if critical of the DH.