Rigid contracting 'hampers sector'

The public sector wants voluntary organisations to deliver more public services, but is hampered by inflexible contracting, according to a survey by Futurebuilders.

Of the social services departments, councils and NHS trusts consulted, 80 per cent felt there was more potential for the voluntary and community sector to deliver public services. And they believed third sector organisations were better able to involve service users and reach marginal groups.

But two-thirds also reported "financial, policy or structural constraints" that stopped them drawing up contracts with charities. These ranged from not having the budgets to outsource services to restrictive one-year contracts.

Richard Gutch, chief executive of Futurebuilders, said: "The research highlights the scale of the task. Many respondents felt the sector's lack of experience was a barrier to successful tendering. Empowering the voluntary and community sector to compete effectively in the marketplace is a key aim of Futurebuilders."

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Voluntary organisations still feel like the poor relation in local partnerships with the public sector, according to research conducted by government agencies in Yorkshire and Humberside. The Powerful Connections study revealed there has been progress towards more mature relationships, but voluntary organisations felt "let down" by not having enough say in local partnership planning.

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