Public services news round-up: August 2016

Devolution survey – have you had your say?

The devolution agenda is perhaps the single most important policy initiative affecting voluntary organisations and public services. 12 areas have now agreed deals and many more have submitted proposals to government. For the voluntary sector, this represents both a valuable opportunity to input into the redesign and delivery of public services, and a challenge, in terms of adjusting to changes in local leadership and commissioning structures.

Currently little is known about the extent to which charities have been involved in the development of proposals or implementation of deals. To address this gap in understanding, we’ve teamed up with CFGNAVCALocality and Regional Voices to survey the sector on their experience of devolution to date. This short survey will only take 5 minutes to complete but will provide a crucial insight into the engagement of the sector to date.

Those with an interest in devolution may also like to read the new report from the Institute for Government (PDF, 440KB) on the support needed by those involved in integrating local public services.

Commissioning models used by arts and cultural organisations

As part of NCVO’s Cultural Commissioning Programme, we have published overviews of the different models used by arts and culture organisations involved in commissioning. These include single provider, sub-contracting, consortia, national frameworks, personal budgets (links open PDFs) and more. Each provides a summary of how the model works, contractual arrangements, evaluations, scalability and challenges. In addition, there is an infographic (PDF, 240KB) comparing the models side by side.

Voluntary sector delivering public services

James Rees, the editor of a new book on voluntary organisations delivering public services, has written a guest blog which draws out some of the key implications for the sector.

Sustainability and Transformation Plans

Incisive Health has published a helpful analysis of the publicly available information about the Sustainability and Transformation Plan process (PDF, 950KB). This highlights the speed at which STPs are being developed and the limited public engagement to date.

STPs were looked at by the VCSE Review (PDF, 1.3MB), for which NCVO acted as secretariat. This recommended that NHS England should update its guidance on STPs in order to ensure that there is greater co-production with those who use services and their families.

Learning from public service failure

A new report from the Institute for Government (PDF, 430KB) analyses the experiences of four different organisations that endured serious failures but nonetheless managed to successfully turnaround and return to providing good services. It draws eight key lessons from these case studies, two of which I found particularly striking. Firstly, that failing organisations are often insular, which was certainly the case with Kids Company and with hindsight should have been a clear warning sign both to government and others in the sector. Secondly, that creating an open, no-blame culture helps to protect against future risk of failure. This is undoubtedly true but will be difficult to achieve if providers are concerned that they may struggle to secure future funding if they’re honest about current failures, particularly if they have payment by results contracts.

NCVO Trustee Conference 2016: Governance in the spotlight

With so much scrutiny of the sector from the media, public, government, stakeholders and each other, it has never been more important for trustees to understand their responsibilities and keep up to date with the latest developments in governance. Join us on 7 November at the leading annual event for charity trustees. Get practical tools and guidance to help you to be a better trustee and develop your skills in our range of expert-led workshops. Book by Friday 9 September for an early bird discount.


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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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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