Headlines: June 1st, 2005

Charities and the Government are being warned against seeing of public service delivery by voluntary organisations as an end in itself. The words of caution come in a report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which says an increased role in service provision is an excellent opportunity for the voluntary sector to reach more of the individuals and communities it exists to support.The report delivers a resounding endorsement of the role of voluntary organisations in the reform of public services but warns that charities that engage in public services delivery must do so because it helps them meet their objectives. Public service delivery, says the NCVO, is only one of a number of different roles the sector fulfils.

The report calls for more emphasis on the voluntary sector’s crucial role in advocacy, campaigning, advice and information and it raises concerns that too much focus on delivering services may distort understanding of the sector.

NCVO Chief Executive Stuart Etherington, said, “Voluntary and community organisations do play an important role in public service delivery, but it should be viewed as a means to meeting their objectives not as an end in its self.”

The report’s recommendations include emphasising the sector’s role in providing communities and individuals with a voice about the public services they want and a call for voluntary organisations that take on a contract to deliver public services using public funds, to ensure they are properly accountable.

At the end of this month the National Audit Office is due to publish its report on the Government’s progress in removing the barriers to greater service delivery by the voluntary and community sector.