Exploring 3rd Sector Relationship with Councils.

Director of Neesie Noreen Khan today writes in the Havering Daily.

The impact of budget cuts and austerity is hitting Councils hard; however, the ripple effects are shocking the Third Sector. The increasing emphasis on partnership working and collaboration in the third sector in the UK has become a paramount way of working. In addition to this, the challenges of the need of spatial distribution of power to North of England through Devolution, North Powerhouse discussions and inclusive growth are becoming ever more pressing. The news that a devolution deal has been reached is great but needs careful examination of how this will benefit all rather than a selected few. The impacts through evidence work will have an inference with Third Sector buy in and the need to support reasoning with localised think tank groups.

Currently, the extreme challenges are of finding an ‘acceptable normal life’ because of Covid- 19. We are being conflated between the need for Government to send people back to work and balancing the scientific need for further precautions and ensuring people stay at home. The pressures of Covid have certainly stretched resources but at the same time it has tested the patience of communities and individuals. The pressure on authorities has meant that they see what is needed for residents of their City and not look at only supporting those who are known to offer a quick win. Fair financial distribution of funds becomes an even more paramount necessity.

The current government has been in many respects radical in the development of its approach to service delivery, the introduction of ‘Big Society’ involving new and expanded roles for Third Sector Organisations in public service delivery, expanded roles for mutuals and co-ops (particularly in health), the ‘community right to challenge’ and the public sector staff ‘right to provide’ (through ‘spin-out’ organisations).

Third sector organisations in all shapes and sizes are experiencing rapid challenges and are facing the changes in the context in which they are operating. For organisations involved in delivering public services, or with aspirations to do so, the current agenda around ‘Open Public Services’, in a context of public spending constraints and cutbacks, signals the need to negotiate newly emerging rules, roles, and expectations. Although some of the language of ‘commissioning’ and ‘procurement’ remains a continuous thread from the previous government administrations, new understandings of the role of third sector in relation to the state and the private sector, coupled with the public finance austerity programmes, suggests some uncharted waters for the third sector.

Partnership working has become an important theme of late driven particularly by Policy change and ensuring the third sector are more coherent, efficient and aligned to the delivery of a range of public services. As the Director of Neesie, I see too often the ramifications of the limited support to Third Sector organisations. Councils’ being selective and focusing upon quick wins often results at compromising the work of other Third Sector groups, who have the greatest need. We work with an almost undetected community i.e. single mums and women with children who have been hardest hit by the austerity measures and the lack of acknowledgement from the Public Sector.

It needs to be understood, the third sector can play a vital role in developing high-quality services the public rightly expects. Charities, voluntary groups and social enterprises have particular strengths, reaching out to the most disaffected people, finding innovative solutions and offering a personal touch. Many third sector organisations achieve great results without government funding. The reality, on the ground is tough. The commissioning environment is competitive and not always geared up to value the third sector’s strengths but, working together, we can help break down those barriers.
An immediate challenge is a growing tendency for commissioners to seek immediate returns and tend to operate a ‘know you’ model at the expense of those with greater needs. A solution for marginalised Third Sector organisations is to develop consortium bidding and subcontracting that has the potential to lead to greater opportunities for third sector organisations. Indeed, efficiency goes hand-in-hand with the effective outcomes that services provided on a personal level can achieve.


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