Charity Management

Charities need greater flexibility to contribute more to public services

24 October 2012

The Government’s Open Public Services agenda, announced last year, encourages the voluntary sector to bring innovation to local services, but there are significant barriers which hamper this reality according to a new report

The report, entitled 'Open Public Services: Experiences from the Voluntary Sector', which was published by NCVO and 14 partner organisations, highlights examples of innovation in practice, where the voluntary sector has worked in new ways with statutory authorities to develop specialist services and argues there needs to be greater openness and flexibility in commissioning services to capitalise on the contribution from charities.

In addition, the authors claim, there are new opportunities emerging from social investment and open data which could ease contract risks and make services more accountable to their users, if adopted.

Sir Stuart Etherington, CEO of NCVO said: "One of the key strengths of the voluntary sector is our diversity and our ability to innovate. We are quick to recognize need and creative in designing effective solutions that overcome the social hurdles many people face.

"But it’s crucial that bureaucracy does not hinder creativity and innovation in developing services for the people who need them. We need the Government and local authorities to recognise the current barriers and restrictions to innovation from the voluntary sector and take practical steps to encourage greater engagement."

The report demonstrates the experience of charities in bringing transformation and innovation to public services. Examples include:

  1. Based in Leicestershire, Baca Project designs and delivers services specifically targeting the needs of 15—19 year olds trafficked in the UK or seeking asylum. Their services are very successful with the young people they reach who develop socially, mentally, emotionally and academically whilst adjusting to the UK culture. Baca commented that local authority commissioning and procurement processes need to be flexible to include grassroots organisations and to encourage service-users to participate in programme design something that NCVYS (of which Baca is a member) is keen to ensure as support for all of its member organisations; an open commissioning process that will help to shape public services around young people’s needs.
  2. A collaborative approach between Conwy Intermediate Care Service and a consortium of voluntary organisations co-ordinated by British Red Cross provided intermediate care to support patient’s independence following hospital discharge. This partnership between statutory health and social care services and the voluntary sector led to a high level of improvement in wellbeing for patients.
  3. West Mercia Probation Trust (WMPT) invited bids for a strategic partner to deliver new services and chose YSS to work with to explore potential services. The partnership helped both organisations bid for the work, adding to their credibility in the funding process and has led to relationships with other non-profit organisations such as Willowdene Farm, for substance misuse. WMPT believes that services should be delivered by those best placed to deliver them, which is often the voluntary sector.

James Allen, head of partnerships & public services at NCVO said: "This report should be read by everyone involved in improving services, from government, local authorities, voluntary organisations to social investors. We must encourage greater integration of approaches from the voluntary sector and all sectors need to work together, opening up dialogue and commissioning to ensure the most appropriate support is delivered to make a difference to the lives of the people and communities in this country."

Click here to read the full report.


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