Headlines: January 25th, 2005

The national charity Citizens Advice wants to see the introduction of a system that would deliver cash to not-for-profit organisations for helping meet key Government targets. The proposed Voluntary Sector Public Service Agreement is based on Local Public Service Agreements that are already widely used in local government.The new system, outlined in the latest edition of charities’ magazine ‘Third Sector’ would supplement, but not replace, grant funding.

Writing in the magazine, Citizens Advice Communications Director Simon Bottery says the idea is that individual charities would identify areas where their work fits in with government Public Service Agreements. They would negotiate with national government targets for delivery of their own work that helps fulfil the PSAs and in return, the Government would provide funding ‘bonuses’ when targets were met.

He gives the example of a charity working in health education that might negotiate a new-style agreement with the Department of Health relating to drug addiction. Its targets might be that 1000 of its clients would have reduced dependency within a 12-month period. In return, in addition to the grant it receives, it would be paid a ‘bonus’ by the DoH, perhaps relating to the cost to the NHS of drug dependency.

He says, too, that VPSAs could also work at local level where charities could negotiate and agree specific arrangements with local authorities and be rewarded for delivering outcomes that fit into priorities outlined in community strategies. Alternatively, they could simply be rewarded for helping deliver the local authority’s own LPSAs, with a share of the additional grant received by the local authority.

Mr. Bottery says the new agreements would help voluntary organisations to retain their independence: “They would allow the voluntary and community sector to retain complete independence, decide on its own work programme – but also to see financial returns for areas of work that happen to be congruent with government interest, ” he says. The agreements would also improve service delivery by requiring the sector to put more emphasis on outcomes.