Voluntary Action Scotland 'must improve governance'

An evaluation commissioned by the Scottish government finds 'mixed views' about the effectiveness of the umbrella body

The infrastructure body Voluntary Action Scotland must improve its governance arrangements amid concerns about its effectiveness, a report commissioned by the Scottish government has concluded.

In an evaluation of VAS and Scotland’s Third Sector Interface network model, which was released by the Scottish government last month, VAS was told to review and improve its governance arrangements in light of concerns about its effectiveness.

The TSI model was developed in 2008. It created 32 funding agreements to provide a single point of access for support and advice for the charity sector in each local authority area in Scotland, with VAS established as the TSI representative body.

The TSIs receive government and local authority funding to develop volunteering, develop social enterprise, build a relationship with community planning and support charities.

The evaluation, which was carried out by the consultancies Blake Stevenson and Arrivo Consulting and involved a survey of all TSI chief executives and chairs, says there were "very mixed" views among TSIs about the effectiveness of VAS.

It says: "Research participants described the quality of service being provided by VAS as inconsistent and not always addressing all needs. In addition, some felt that VAS had not yet achieved sufficient ‘positioning’ and credibility in relation to championing the TSI network and policy influence."

But the evaluation also says VAS has been working under constraints on its ability to respond to the TSI network’s needs and expectations, and although VAS had not yet fulfilled its core functions, "it is an improving picture with the potential to improve further".

As well as reviewing and improving its governance, the evaluation says, VAS and the TSIs should ensure quality standards for the delivery of services are put in place and VAS should develop stronger links with national intermediary bodies.

Despite this, it says, 82 per cent of TSI chief executives and chairs said the TSI model had improved delivery "to some or a great extent", although the report adds that "the integrated TSI model is working more effectively in some areas than in others and that this inconsistency needs to be addressed in order to avoid damaging the reputation of the network more widely".

In a statement published on the Voluntary Action Scotland website, Allan Johnstone, acting chief executive, and Derek Marshall, convenor, welcomed the evaluation’s findings but said the research "doesn’t always highlight the improvements that VAS and the network has progressed over the last few years".

The statement said: "From the stakeholder engagement process planned for 2017 and further TSI network developments, we anticipate building upon our improvements and shaping a local third sector infrastructure that best meets the ambitions of people, communities and their local organisations."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "The Scottish government commissioned an independent evaluation to provide robust evidence to be used as part of a broader engagement on the future infrastructure of the third sector. 

"Over the next six months, we will hold a number of stakeholder events and discussions to examine how our local third sector infrastructure is organised and how it can be improved. 

"Following this wider engagement, we will draw together recommendations for improvement to be implemented from 2018/19 onwards."

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