Headlines: March 19th, 2008

Third sector involvement in public services is seen by government as an essential part of achieving the transformation of service delivery. But third sector oganisations believe that those responsible for commissioning services in central and local government expect additional social, economic or environmental benefits to be provided as free extras. The Performance Hub, which is funded by Capacity builders and the Home Office, wants to level the playing field for contracts by sharpening up thinking about what third sector organisations provide so that all benefits can be costed in when bids are evaluated.

The Performance Hub argues that much of the rationale and explanation for involving third sector organisations in public services is muddled or unclear. It believes the problem is caused by the belief in ‘Added Value’ and the way it has been used to describe the contribution of the third sector to public services. The concept of ‘Added Value’ it asserts should be consigned to the scrap heap and replaced by “FullValue” so that third sector organisations can get across the full value of their organisations to those who commission services.

‘Full Value’ thinking is explained in an in-school counselling scheme for bullied children which might be successful in delivering its primary outcomes of reducing bullying in the school and giving pupils greater self-confidence. However, there may also be valuable wider benefits for the users. For example, the pupils could become quicker to seek other support from the school in the future. Non-users, eg the parents of bullied children, could be more aware of the needs of their children, or become more closely involved in the school. The level of satisfaction experienced by both these groups is also crucial. In commissioning the service, the wider benefits should be taken into account.

Taking a ‘Full Value’ approach can help government and the third sector capture some of this complexity. It would also discourage commissioners from forcing third sector organisations to demonstrate ‘added’ value before they are taken seriously as partners in the transformation of public services.