Headlines: April 26th, 2005

New research shows that Primary Care Trusts and voluntary bodies working in partnership each have little understanding of the constraints that the other is working under. The study, by CVS Community Partnership, shows that this can result in unrealistic and sometimes unreasonable expectations.The report, ‘Partnership or a master-servant relationship?’, is based on a study of how voluntary groups involved with people who have physical and learning disabilities could work better with Primary Care Trusts and Social Services departments in Leicestershire and Rutland. The authors believe the findings have clear relevance to similar partnership working around the country.

The study found that statutory and voluntary organisations identified the same problems, notably the lack of understanding of the constraints faced by the other. Factors identified in the study as undermining effective partnership working included lack of information by each partner about organisational structures and mechanisms for decision taking. This was aggravated by the lack of democratic structures within the voluntary sector.

The report recommends that partnership boards should have a clear constitution, setting out the membership criteria and the role of each sub group of the board. It wants to see sub groups developed specifically to represent voluntary sector service users. It recommends that the constitution of such a group should make clear whether members are representing their own organisation or are elected on behalf of voluntary sector service providers as a whole.

The study also calls for voluntary organisations to be funded to help them work more effectively in partnership and recommends that Partnership Boards should create budgets to pay unsalaried representatives from the voluntary sector for the time spent on partnership working. In the absence of any shared budget for partnership working, it says the cost of implementing the recommendations should be met by the statutory organisations.