'Attitudes must change' for relations between charities and public bodies to prosper

The relationship between the voluntary and public sectors remains fraught and commissioning arrangements between the two parties are ineffective, delegates at a Local Government Association conference heard yesterday.

Caroline Abrahams, a programme director at the Local Government Association conference who used to work for children’s charity NCH, said attitudes needed to change if either side was to take advantage of the new political climate in which charities are being encouraged to run more public services.

Charities, she said, had ‘the Heineken effect’: they were able to reach the parts of society that the public sector was unable to reach. But “a lack of mutual understanding” was undermining their potential.

“Councils are good at engaging third sector organisations but there is an issue over how deep it is,” she said. “They struggle to know how best to deal with the diversity of the third sector. There are hundreds or thousands operating in their area. The third sector gets marginalised and feels like decisions are taken elsewhere. Their creativity therefore isn’t fully tapped.”

Charities, in return, needed to better understand how councils operate, she said.

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