Headlines: December 9th, 2004

Organisations in the voluntary sector that provide public services welcome regulation, if it is effective, flexible and not overly bureaucratic, according to a new report.The study commissioned by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, says that in areas like provision of supported housing, day care for children and residential care, those charities that were interviewed or that took part in discussion groups said regulation promoted public confidence, protected service users and helped the organisations to secure funding and raise staff morale.

The report – ‘The Impact of Regulation on Voluntary Oganisations’ written by independent consultant Margaret Bolton – concludes that while voluntary organisations believe regulation is a good thing in principle it is often flawed in practice.

Benefits of regulation cited by the organizations in the study included the contribution it made to transparency through external scrutiny, the establishment of basic standards and increasing the confidence of funders. But they were highly critical of the creation of unnecessary bureaucracy, regulations that lacked flexibility and regulators and funders who failed to ‘join up’ their roles.

NCVO hopes the report will stimulate a new debate around the purpose of regulation and how it can be improved. Its recommendations include giving new regulatory systems time to bed down before fundamental changes are proposed or implemented and a call for front line practitioners to be involved in formulating regulations, standards or targets. The report also urges regulators to establish forums for those they are regulating so that problems can be brought to their attention and it says inspectors should have practical experience of the services that they are inspecting gained as paid workers, volunteers or users.