Public services news round-up: July 2016

EU referendum

We recently ran an online event looking at how the EU referendum will affect the voluntary sector. With experts from our policy department and the legal firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, it covers the political, financial and legal implications of Brexit, as well as the social impact it could have. Read our summary blog post or watch the recording for full details.

Office for Civil Society relocates

As part of new Prime Minister Theresa May’s restructure, the Office of Civil Society (OCS), along with the minister for civil society Rob Wilson, has been moved from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). OCS director Mark Fisher explains what the OCS already shares with DCMS, including alignment on the Big Lottery Fund, in his blog post.

We are pleased with the stability that comes from the same minister staying in the role but there are legitimate concerns that DCMS is a less prominent department than Cabinet Office, and is less able to accommodate all policy areas that are relevant to the voluntary sector, such as the Commissioning Academy or youth policy. See Karl Wilding’s blog post for more details about the new structure of government.

Life Chances Fund Launch

Government has launched its £80m Life Chances Fund. It will provide local commissioners with a proportion of funding towards outcome payments for social impact bonds (SIBs). The fund will help develop SIBs around six themes: drug and alcohol dependency; children’s services; young people; early years; healthy lives; and older people’s services.

Whilst £80m towards these issues is welcome, it isn’t clear that SIBs are the best way to deliver these outcomes. They use payment-by-results, which can cause problems such as perverse incentives. And there is currently little evidence to support the use of SIBs themselves, which are a costly, complicated funding mechanism to use. See Michael Birtwistle’s recent Civil Society article for a further look at SIBs.

ESF funding

We understand that many organisations are currently bidding for ESF contracts, against a backdrop of uncertainty around how long withdrawal from the European Union will take. ERSA have speculated that ESF monies could be safe until 2018. However, we’ve recently received some unconfirmed reports that only signed contracts are going ahead, while others are being suspended, or even pulled altogether.

  • Have you heard anything about EU funding being cut?
  • Have you personally been informed that unsigned funding might not go ahead?
  • Have you been asked by any of your voluntary sector partners to withdraw an application for EU funding?

As I’m sure you can appreciate, we rely heavily on feedback from frontline organisations such as yours for our policy work. If you can help us shed any light on the situation, it would greatly strengthen our position when we seek clarification from government on the matter in the coming weeks. We will of course keep your feedback anonymous if you would prefer. Please email public services policy officer Paul Winyard with any thoughts or information.

Work and Health Programme

Reform, with Big Society Capital, has launched a report calling for a more level playing field for different providers when the Work and Health Programme, the successor to the Work Programme, opens for tenders later this year. It makes a number of recommendations that NCVO welcomes though we have concerns about the extensive use of payment-by-results in the programme. Paul Winyard’s blog post sets out our views in more detail.

Transforming Rehabilitation

NCVO, with Clinks and the Third Sector Research Centre, have responded to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). This follows the publication in May of our second joint report on the role of voluntary organisations in probation services.

Local government transparency

NCVO and the Third Sector Research Centre have responded to a government consultation on strengthening the Local Authority Transparency Code 2015. Paul Winyard has blogged on our recommendations.

Time credits

Spice have published a new report looking at the impact that time credit systems can have on communities. Through this system, people volunteer for an organisation and earn time credits which they can exchange for local services. It can help sustain public services, benefits individual participants who meet new people and become more confident, and encourages community action.  The report found that participating individuals benefited from taking part: 77% reported that time credits had a good effect on the quality of life, whilst 60% said it made them feel healthier.


Learn how to build a successful consortium on 17 October in London. This one-day training course will be an intensive day outlining everything that you will need to do or think about in order to establish a voluntary-sector consortium.

NCVO is also keen to hear from infrastructure organisations or other partners around England that would like to partner to deliver training in commercial skills and commissioning to their local voluntary sector. Please email


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Bethan was NCVO’s trainee public services officer.

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