Headlines: April 24th, 2003

Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organizations, has set out a vision of one million people in voluntary bodies delivering public services ten years on. The scenario he paints shows growth in voluntary sector activity coming from a range of sources. There will be contracts to deliver probation and social work services and transport infrastructure. Hospitals and schools will be operated as community interest companies and as not-for-profit organizations. Integration into public service delivery will be fostered by voluntary organizations having their performance measured, inspected and compared by a government-appointed regulator.Local strategic partnerships bring together councils and other parts of the public sector, business, voluntary and community sector organizations. They provide the infrastructure for greater involvement of the voluntary sector in delivering services.

The relationship between the Government and the voluntary sector was set out in a Compact published in 1998. It spells out undertakings including the Government’s commitment to recognize the independence of the voluntary sector and the Sector’s commitment to maintain high standards of accountability.

To bring the vision into a reality Stuart Etherington recognizes that local and national policy developers will need to accept that the not-for-profit sector has an important part to play in the wider social policies for developing communities and social inclusion.