NCVO public services news round up – September 2015

Our monthly round-up focusses on the most interesting stories related to the voluntary sector and public services from the last month. If you have any thoughts, questions or challenges then please leave a comment below or tweet us @NCVO @NJ_Davies

Smarter State

The Prime Minister has given a major speech setting out his vision for a smarter state. In it he sets out three principles for achieving this: reform, devolution and efficiency. Although the speech is largely a rehashing of existing policies, it does make a few references to the role of the voluntary sector in reforming public services: calling for more collaborative working between departments, local authorities and charities; highlighting the use of social impact bonds to fund the voluntary sector; and suggesting inviting bids for new prisons from charities.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister identified children-in-care as an area where state failure has been tolerated. Yet, as a government commissioned report (covered in July’s round up) highlighted, two-thirds of the children’s residential care provision is actually independent. Around 2% of this is run by the voluntary sector, with the rest in the private sector, much of it private equity owned.

The future of welfare to work

The current contracts for the Work Programme expire in 2017. The procurement process for its successor will begin next year but the Department for Work and Pensions is already deep into the planning process. With this in mind, the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee is undertaking an inquiry into the future of welfare to work. NCVO has submitted a response which reflects the recommendations of Stepping Stones. Check out Karina’s blog post for a summary.

Also published this month is an excellent new report by Groundwork. What’s a working life worth? echoes many of the findings of NCVO’s Work Programme research. It highlights the failure of the existing system to fully utilise the expertise of the voluntary sector and effectively support those furthest from the labour market. Amongst other things, it calls for a more personalised front-end assessment of need, reduced emphasis on price competition and a payment structure which recognises progress towards work.

State of Social Enterprise

Social Enterprise UK has published the State of Social Enterprise Survey 2015. The report shows a young and thriving sector: almost half of social enterprises are five years old or less and 50% reported a profit. Delivery of public services is a major part of social enterprises’ work. 59% of organisations do some business with the public sector and for 27% it is their main source of income, a figure that has grown for three reports in a row.

Interestingly, large social enterprises (those with over 250 employees) are more likely to deliver certain public services such as housing (33%), social care (26%) and healthcare (22%). However, startups are also more likely to have entered certain public service markets when compared to the longest-established social enterprises – such as healthcare (11% compared to 5%) and education (23% compared to 13%).

Troubled Lives

IPPR has published a report proposing that government establishes a “Troubled Lives” programme to support adults living with a combination of homelessness, substance misuse and offending.  Modelled on the Coalition’s Troubled Families programme, “Troubled Lives” would help local authorities meet individuals’ needs by providing a key worker for each user and joining-up relevant services. Areas would have considerable freedom to adapt the programme to reflect local circumstances, such as making some decisions about who the programme would support.

Whilst the programme would, like Troubled Families, provide a proportion of funding on a payment-by-results basis, these would be made based on results across an area rather than for individual user outcomes.  The report discusses how that this could help overcome problems with using this type of payment for programmes for users with complex needs, such as identifying service impact.

Labour frontbench

Jeremy Corbyn has announced his shadow frontbench. New deputy leader Tom Watson will lead the Labour shadow Cabinet Office team with Anna Turley taking responsibility for civil society. She was previously a special advisor in the Cabinet Office and deputy director of the New Local Government Network.

Compact Voice survey

Compact Voice’s 2015 survey of local Compacts is now open. The information collected helps to map local Compact activity across England and provides valuable insights into how the voluntary sector more widely is engaging with new policies and commissioning bodies.

You can take the survey here. Most of the questions are multiple choice so it should only take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Each completed entry will go into the draw to win a £100 John Lewis Voucher. The survey closes on Friday 23 October.

Whole system commissioning

NLGN are running two interactive workshops (Liverpool – 3 November, London – 12 November) exploring the relationship between local authorities and the voluntary sector in commissioning and providing social services. The days will use interactive exercises to simulate a new method of person centred commissioning, enabling attendees from local government and the voluntary sector to simulate and test this new collaborative approach. The workshop will provide valuable learning experience on person centred commissioning for all delegates and will contribute to NLGN’s upcoming report. Please email for more information and to reserve a place.

Families Inquiry

4Children has launched a new Inquiry – Britain’s Families: thriving or surviving? – to ask young people, parents and carers across the country about what it is like to live in Britain today. There are two surveys – one for parents and carers, and the other for children and young people – which close at the end of October.

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Nick was NCVO's public services manager until March 2017. He is also a trustee of the South London Relief in Sickness Fund.

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