The delivery of public services by the voluntary sector can build social capital and inclusion and give direct accountability to communities, according to a new paper published by chief executives' body Acevo.
Choice and Voice says the voluntary sector should use its strengths to challenge established views, give a voice to citizens and communities and extend the range of choices available to service users.
"This is not about delivering more services through our organisations for their own sake," it says. "It is about harnessing our strengths as value-driven and connected organisations."
The paper is being interpreted by the NCVO as a move away from the position in last year's book Communities in Control, in which Nick Aldridge, director of strategy at Acevo, argued for a "major expansion" of third sector delivery, particularly in areas such as employment training services, children's services, independent living aids and correctional services.
Ann Blackmore, head of policy at the NCVO, said:"I have read Choice and Voice, and the argument Acevo is putting forward does seem to be different from the line it has put out before. It seems to be very much in line with the argument we've always put." Blackmore released a paper last year in which she argued that the sector should be valued not just for its ability to deliver public services, but also for its campaigning and advocacy roles.
Aldridge denied that Choice and Voice marked a change of position , claiming it had been caricatured. "In essence, our position is that third sector organisations have major advantages in public service delivery, as well as their other roles in campaigning and advocacy for reform," he said.
"That is very different from saying that we think the welfare state should be closed down and charities left to pick up the pieces, which is the caricature position of our argument."
- Acevo says a greater role for third-sector organisations in public services is both inevitable and desirable
- The chief executives' body says public service delivery can build social capital and choice
- It also says charities should not provide public services "for their own sake"
- The NCVO says these policies are similar to its own and that Acevo is moving away from its previous stance.