Commission allows charities to play full role in delivering public services


    A landmark decision by the Charity Commission will allow charities
    to deliver whole public services that public authorities previously
    had a duty to provide.



    Until now, organisations registered as charities have been allowed
    to run services that supplement a public provider, but not the
    whole service.



    But a ruling has allowed two limited companies that were running
    leisure services for Trafford and Wigan councils to become
    charities and deliver the councils’ leisure
    services.



    Charities will now be able to run whole services providing they are
    sufficiently independent of councils. As a result, charities could
    be set up specifically to deliver public services, using charitable
    funds to do so.



    The commission’s director of legal services Kenneth Dibble
    said the decision represented “real progress at a time when
    charities are being encouraged to develop capacity and ability to
    deliver better public services alongside public
    authorities”.



    But Barnardo’s UK director of operations Chris Hanvey warned
    that if the public felt their money was being used to prop up
    statutory services, they might become wary about giving to
    charities.



    At the National Council for Voluntary Organisations’ annual
    conference last week, the drive to increase charities’
    involvement in delivering public services was yet again put under
    the spotlight.



    Chief executive Stuart Etherington warned the conference of an
    “increasing gap between the rhetoric of ministers and the
    reality of services on the front line” on the issue of public
    service delivery and urged local government and the sector to
    become allies instead of “squabbling over who said
    what”.



    He demanded an explanation from the Home Office for the delay in
    the distribution of £80m allocated for the ChangeUp
    programme.



    Cash from the programme, which is designed to build the
    sector’s infrastructure to deliver public services, is to be
    spent on governance, IT and staff development.



    “It is nearly two years since the government got involved and
    we are still waiting for them to deliver the money and commit to
    this for the long term,” he said.



    Etherington added that he feared politicians of all parties were
    starting to view the sector through a “very narrow
    prism”.

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