According to research commissioned by the Community Care Providers Scotland (CCPS), the voluntary sector provides a third of Scotland's publicly-funded care services, but receives only 16-20 per cent of the Scottish Executive's community care budget.
In the case of residential care for those with physical or sensory disabilities, the voluntary sector provides 95 per cent of all services, but receives less than half of the available funding. The voluntary sector provided 85 per cent of mental health residential places, but received only 64 per cent of the budget.
"There is a feeling that we provide better value, but that's only because we are given less money in the first place," said Annie Gunner, director of CCPS. "We are concerned that the people who use our services are getting less than they deserve. Our staff are also getting a raw deal compared with their counterparts in council-run care services."
The CCPS commissioned the research to uncover the extent of public service provision by the voluntary sector, and found what one respondent referred to as a "great big black hole" in community care funding statistics.
Gunner said that the findings will be presented to the Scottish Executive, which is conducting a strategic funding review of the voluntary sector and is expected to report back early next year. She said: "We'll be asking the Scottish Executive and the local authorities that distribute community care funding how they can account for these disparities. Ultimately, this is about citizens' entitlement to public services."
In a speech to the CCPS annual conference, the Scottish body's convener Alan Dickson said: "We are now providing more than £200m worth of public services annually, and employ a third of all Scotland's social services workers.
"But contrary to all our aspirations for community care, the money is still not following the user. There are some serious questions about what the rest of the money is being spent on."
Gunner said: "If we are doing similar tasks there should be parity of funding. There should also be greater transparency and accountability, as there doesn't seem to be a standard way to record the purchasing of public services. Nobody has a clue where this money is going."