Voluntary sector key to public sector reform

The voluntary sector should have a “central role” in
the government’s plans for public sector reform, a new report
says today, writes Maria Ahmed.

The report published jointly by the Association of Chief
Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo) and the Social Market
Foundation, calls for an expansion of the role of the voluntary
sector to cover mental health and learning, education in schools,
drug treatment and social care and older people.

The report also identifies barriers to involvement in public
service provision including funding insecurity, bureaucracy and the
voluntary sector’s lack of capacity and expertise due to

It says: “The government’s intention to make the
third sector an equal partner in public service reform has been
widely articulated. However, this central commitment has not
translated into the concrete reforms that would make such
engagement a reality.”

The report claims that increased voluntary sector involvement in
public service provision would result in more
“user-focused” and responsive services.

It calls for the establishment of a cross-governmental
implementation team to look at a framework for reform in more
detail and make recommendations to the Cabinet Office within 18

The report comes amid growing concern from some voluntary
organisations that too much focus on public service delivery could
“warp” public perception of the role of the sector and
undermine other services.

Commenting on the report, Stuart Etherington, chief executive of
the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said: “The
very real danger in this approach is that we will lose the aspects
of our organisations that provide additional benefit to the public
services without bringing any real benefit to our organisations in

“The delivery of public services is, and must be, only one
aspect of the sector’s function and should be pursued
alongside other activities like advocacy and

In April this year, children’s charities NCH, the
Children’s Society and Barnardo’s rejected
Labour’s plans to involve the voluntary sector in the running
of young offender institutions, arguing that it would go against
their commitment to children’s welfare.

Communities in Control, published by Acevo and the Social Market
Foundation from: www.acevo.org.uk


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