Public services news round-up: April 2016

This month, we look at trends in sector income, cultural commissioning, devolution deals, and innovative commissioning. If you have any thoughts, comments or challenges then please leave a comment below or tweet us @ncvobeth or @ncvo.

Almanac 2016: Rise in sector income from government

NCVO’s latest Civil Society Almanac has found that sector income rose by just over £2.4bn between 2012/13 and 2013/14. This includes an £0.5bn increase in income from government, with most of the rise going to large charities with an income of over £100m.

The sector received £15bn in total from government bodies, of which 81% was earned through contracts or fees. The majority of the sector’s income from government comes from relationships with local government, with £7.4bn coming from this source. Central government and the NHS accounted for £6.8bn, while the remaining £0.9bn came from the EU, international governments and international agencies like the UN.

Other key findings include a sharp rise in youth volunteering, which Nick Ockenden explores in his blog post, and a growing sector workforce. See Jennifer Crees’s blog post for the top ten Almanac findings.

The art of commissioning

The New Economics Foundation has released a new report looking at how commissioners can use arts and culture to improve outcomes from public services. In The Art of Commissioning, it highlights how contracting can be improved through changes to commissioning culture, such as strengthening knowledge of what the arts can offer, and improvements in commissioning practices, such as focusing on outcomes and considering alternative funding mechanisms.

The report was produced as part of the Cultural Commissioning Programme, which is delivered by NCVO, in partnership with NEF and NPC.  It is funded by Arts Council England.

Devolution deals

The National Audit Office’s new report, English Devolution Deals, finds unresolved issues in devolution arrangements surrounding resources, geography and accountability. These include:

  • Central government resources – areas worry that there could be limited central capacity to work on deals
  • Local resources – the benefits of joining-up services, which devolution aims to enable, could be limited if the financial position of some services is uncertain
  • Geography – devolution areas’ boundaries don’t always align with those of other local public bodies
  • Accountability – government will need to redefine accountability arrangements and measure the effects of devolution.

 The Institute for Government has also recently released its Making Devolution Deals Work report, which finds that, whilst devolution offers areas a chance to improve services and promote growth, the deal-making process has presented difficulties, with problems such as short timescales and limited guidance for developing bids. It suggests guidelines for devolution, such as ensuring that actors affected, including citizens and service providers, understand the process and believe in their local areas’ plans.

Innovative commissioning

The Cabinet Office’s Commissioning Academy has been relaunched through the Public Service Transformation Academy, with NCVO as a partner. The programme aims to work with public sector leaders to encourage innovative commissioning practices, and will look at themes including working with the voluntary sector, social value, and outcomes-based commissioning.

We’ve recently heard from a number of commissioners adopting innovative commissioning practices, innovation partnerships, supply chain development, and provider development. For more details or to share a story about innovative commissioning, see Lev’s latest blog post or get in touch.

Creating the future for voluntary action

Over 650 voluntary sector leaders met at NCVO’s Annual Conference 2016 to look at the future of the voluntary sector. Highlights included Sir Stuart Etherington’s state of the sector address, Lord Gus O’Donnell on the power of giving, and a speech from Julie Bentley, CEO of Girlguiding.

In the public services workshop, we heard from four local authority leaders about how the voluntary sector could work with commissioners over the next five years, including being explicit about charities’ strengths, taking advantage of engagement opportunities, and being realistic about what commissioners can do. Read my blog post for full details.

Resources from other workshops are available from the conference webpage.

Health and the voluntary sector

It’s been a busy month for research into the voluntary sector and health. NAVCA’s Health and Local Infrastructure report finds that relationships between local health bodies and voluntary sector infrastructure have got better, although they are still weak in some areas.

NPC’s Untapped Potential report finds that there is evidence for a range of work undertaken by health charities leading to better health and wellbeing, and that charity involvement in redesigning health systems also contributes to improved productivity and efficiency. It calls for improved working between charities and the health sector, facilitated through changes such as; more appropriate evidence standards, increased sector involvement in redesign, and improved funding mechanisms.

NHS Employers has issued new guidance, Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers, which covers volunteer policies, recruiting volunteers, and volunteer management.

Upcoming public services training

  • We’re hosting a one day workshop on Building a Successful Consortium on 20 June. This will cover the key issues to think about when setting up a consortium, including operating models, legal structures and procedures for becoming contract ready.
  • NCVO’s Public Services Conference 2016: Stronger Sector, Better Services, will provide practical tools and guidance on the role of the voluntary sector in public services. It takes place on 26 September, and you can register your interest now.
  • On 10 June we are running a Writing Successful Bids Learn how to ensure that your bid stands out.
  • NCVO is also hosting Turning Ideas into Income: Starting a New Trading Venture. This course on 13 June covers the key issues in setting up or growing trading activity within your organisation.


This entry was posted in Practical support, Research, Training and events and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Like this? Read more

Bethan was NCVO’s trainee public services officer.

Comments are closed.