Headlines: January 24th, 2006

A new network has been launched to support people working in the voluntary and community sector who are responsible for negotiating and managing public service contracts. It’s been set up by the National Council for Voluntary Organisation’s Sustainable Funding Project, in partnership with Futurebuilders England, in response to the fact that while the sector is playing an important and increasing role in delivering public services, many organisations are still encountering barriers and finding contracting a complex process.The Public Service Delivery Network is also open to statutory authorities and agencies interested in enhancing their understanding of and relations with the voluntary sector. NCVO Chief Executive Stuart Etherington said the new network would help to develop capacity by providing a forum for peer support and professional development opportunities. “We hope it will provide a springboard for effective partnership working, both between the VCS and the public sector, and within the VCS itself,” he said.

The Network will be supported by publications and an Annual Conference. The Sustainable Funding Project and Futurebuilders will work with the National Association of Councils for Voluntary Service to disseminate learning and to cascade skills throughout the sector to ensure all organisations can be fully supported.

At the launch, the challenges faced by voluntary and community organisations trying to win contracts were highlighted in the case of one Futurebuilders’ investee, Liverpool Crossroads Caring for Carers. Its Business Manager, Sean Barrett, said once an organisation was over the hurdle of getting an opportunity to bid for a contract, it faced the challenge of persuading purchasers to cover the full cost of the service. “That’s before you’ve worked your way through the complexities of the full contract process. This Network will be crucial for sharing good practice and learning from each other so we can improve the contract environment,” he added.