Labour moots vast extension of charity provision of social services

Huge parts of key social care services could be provided by
charities in future under plans being drawn up for the Labour Party

Former health secretary Alan Milburn was expected to tell a
conference organised by the Association of Chief Executives of
Voluntary Organisations this week that so-called Cinderella
services such as mental health and homelessness would be better
delivered by the voluntary sector.

It is believed that the party’s manifesto will say that hundreds of
charities should be considered as part of a drive to increase the
sector’s delivery of public services.

The £125m Futurebuilders Fund, to which charities interested
in taking on public sector work can apply, was also launched this
week. The fund was set up to increase the charitable sector’s

But the National Council for Voluntary Organisations sounded a note
of caution about Milburn’s vision, warning that the “wholesale
handing over of services could be very dangerous”.

“The point we have made all along is that charities should only
deliver public services where it will give their beneficiaries an
added-value,” a spokesperson said.

“A lot of charities will be really nervous about the language that
is being used now because we have always said it is up to
individual charities to decide if they want to take on public
sector contracts.”

However, Acevo chief executive Stephen Bubb said Milburn’s vision
would be welcomed by the sector and could “improve dramatically”
service users’ quality of care.

But he said the sector would need to improve its governance
arrangements and management.

Conference chair and head of the National Consumer Council Ed Mayo
added: “The current maze of short-term grants and insecure
contracts won’t deliver the results both sides want. Long-term
social problems need long-term thinking.”

Early findings of research carried out by Acevo, due to be unveiled
at the conference this week, found that 92 per cent of voluntary
organisations had public service contracts of one year or less and
86 per cent of funding problems were adversely affecting service

More than 200 third sector organisations took part in the research,
which will be completed in September.

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