How is commissioning changing? by New Philanthropy Capital

Fiona Sheil was responsible for co-ordinating NCVO’s programme of seminars, training and advice work on public service commissioning and procurement. Fiona left NCVO in October 2013 but we have retained her blog posts for reference.

Increasing charities’ role in providing public services has been one of the Coalition government’s big ideas from the start. Last summer’s public services white paper promised to open up contracts for taxpayer-funded services to a wider range of providers, giving charities more opportunities to run public services.

This policy isn’t groundbreaking—it has a long history. Charities have been delivering public services for years, and funding from central or local government makes up one-third of the sector’s income. But in the last year, commissioning has become a sector buzzword, and you’re just as likely to overhear colleagues chatting about prime contractors and Payment by Results as donors and campaigning.

So why the sudden surge of interest in the staid world of commissioning? Because the way government funding is doled out is changing. The commissioning process is transforming, with trends towards contracts where payments are based on outcomes, or where people have control over personal budgets. These changes could involve charities taking on more risk, and have profound consequences for the third sector.

Perhaps private companies will take over contracts historically awarded to charities. Maybe some charities could go bust. Or maybe some will become super-charities, edging out small local organisations from the market. Will charities be forced to restructure in order to bid for contracts? Or will this be the making of the sector, rewarding the effective organisations and weeding out those interventions that don’t work so well?

There are endless questions hanging over the issue of government commissioning—we’ve heard a lot of charities’ views anecdotally, good and bad, but we need to know more about how the sector as a whole is getting on.

This is why New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), supported by third sector insurer Zurich, is conducting a survey to find out how charities are coping, and the impact the changes are having on them and their beneficiaries.

We would love to hear your views, and hope you can spare 15 minutes to complete our anonymous survey, and help us build up a complete picture of how charities like yours are coping. Your answers will feed directly into a report to be published by NPC later this year, looking at what is working and what could be better, and helping us understand how charities’ relationship to the state is changing.

Take the survey by clicking this link here!

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