The Voluntary Sector Assembly events are an important space to learn, network, debate issues and develop a collective view / position to communicate to the public and commercial sectors.
The first assembly event held in February 2013, chaired by Prof John Diamond from Edgehill University, focused on the perceived threat to independence from public sector policy around ‘welfare reform’ or ‘welfare cuts’ and the outsourcing of the welfare state to the commercial for profit sector and the social sector.
We invited key critical thinkers within the sector to address the assembly. Bernard Davies from the National Coalition of Independent Associations (NCIA) argued that the so called “open public services agenda” serves a narrow set of ideological and commercial/corporate interests and advised that the voluntary and community sector think carefully about the impact of these changes on their beneficiaries and on their mission and values before throwing their hat in the ring.
Indeed he argued that the proper role for the sector may be as a voice of dissent standing not with the government, by facilitating these reforms, but standing with the many vulnerable and disabled people who are to lose benefits and support services.
Heather Buckingham and James Rees from the Third Sector Research Centre offered an analysis, set out below, of the different positions which the social sector has adopted in response to the shift from grants to contracts to deliver services previously within the public sector.
There were some strong reactions and some welcomed the opportunity to consider these issues and resolved to reconsider their funding strategies, others had already decided their position and; some found it too academic or were looking for more practical support.
Going forward this presents a challenge to the assembly about how to maintain a clear role as a voice for the sector, while remaining relevant to the diversity of needs and views within the sector. However everybody present acknowledged the importance of a forum such as this where the sector can learn together and develop a collective message.
If you want to find out more about the assembly contact the Policy and Influence team on 0161 834 9823.
For a more detailed exploration of NCIA’s views visit their website at: www.independentaction.net
To read the full paper from the third sector research centre, visit: http://thirdsectorfutures.org.uk/is-the-third-sector-being-overwhelmed-by-the-state-and-the-market/