In these turbulent financial times there is an increasing recognition of the key role that the voluntary sector has in delivering social care, writes Mark Drinkwater (pictured). Recently, I attended a course about community resources for older people. The aim of the training was to keep social workers and allied professionals updated about the ever-changing nature of local non-statutory services for older people.
Aside from a few grumbles that these professional development courses no longer have a free lunch provided, it was heartening to see that most of the participants were reasonably upbeat about the current and the impending cuts to public services.
Frontline workers recognise they will be faced with the challenges of dwindling public sector resources at a time of existing radical transformation of adult care through personalisation. The implementation of this agenda depends on a thriving third-sector marketplace where services respond to the diverse needs of service users (or “micro-commissioners” as one colleague only half-jokingly refers to them).
One thing the training course emphasised was that many of the established social care services we have today – such as meals on wheels – started out as innovative responses by the voluntary sector. By and large, these not-for-profit organisations are better able to respond to personalisation by offering more diverse, more innovative services. Small amounts of money go a lot further in the voluntary sector as less is spent on bureaucracy than in their statutory counterparts, and this also represents better value for money than is provided by their profit-making counterparts in the private sector.
As workers consider the impact of the spending review cuts, an increasing part of social workers’ roles will undoubtedly depend on them remaining fully informed about the resources available from our diverse voluntary sector.
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Mark Drinkwater is a community worker in south London