Headlines: June 22nd, 2006

Research today highlights systematic failings in the Government’s approach to the delivery of public services by the voluntary and community sector. The study, from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations comes on the day that the Prime Minister is expected to speak again about the need to reform public services when he addresses a conference later.The VCVO survey’s key findings show more than half of the voluntary and community groups taking part in the survey did not know at the beginning of the financial year how much funding they would receive and many others report not being paid on time to deliver public services.

Campbell Robb, Director of Public Policy at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said, “While some transfers of public services have certainly taken place, it is happening in such an inefficient and ineffective way that little progress has been made to truly transform public services.”

The survey looks at a number of Government claims about its commitment to placing more public services in the hands of the voluntary sector and sets these against the realities discovered in the study. These show 55 per cent of respondents have not had funding negotiated and agreed promptly for this financial year, creating uncertainty over future provision of services. At the same time 41 per cent who have had their funding agreed have not had funding paid on time.

Almost half of the organisations taking part said they had not had their funding agreed for longer than a year and were having to divert resources away from service delivery and meeting the needs of their beneficiaries to securing future funding. Finally, although Government Accounting allows for payments to be made in advance of expenditure, 47 per cent of organisations have not had funding agreed for payment in advance.

Campbell Robb said if the Government wanted voluntary and community organisations to help transform public services those organisations needed to be involved in the design and commissioning of services. “‘Government needs to turn its rhetoric into reality and show a greater understanding of what the sector can bring and how it operates. If this does not happen, the real failure will not be that voluntary and community organisations cannot take on a greater role in public service delivery, but that citizens and communities will fail to get the services they need and deserve,” he added.

NCVO has also today published a paper setting out the potential role that voluntary and community organisations could play in transforming public services and what would be needed to enable that to happen.