Speaking at the NCVO last week, Tory leader David Cameron said: “Think of what great commercial entrepreneurs have done to revolutionise the way we live, the way we work, the way we take our leisure. Don’t we need the same transformation in the social sphere that we have seen in the economic sphere?”
Progress by the welfare state has been too slow, Cameron argued. He said the 21st century required a new approach in which the state relinquishes some of its control. “I would like to see a major deregulation of small and medium-sized social organisations in our most deprived areas,” he said. But he added: “We are explicitly not proposing the privatisation of public services.”
Cameron also said that social enterprise should be made into as attractive a career prospect for young graduates as the corporate sector or professions like the law.
However, sector representatives said attracting young graduates was not the problem. Tony Breslin, chief executive of the Citizenship Foundation, said: “We attract fantastic young graduates, but we run the risk of losing them after four or five years because we can’t sustain the salaries.”
Breslin called on a Conservative government to extend the keyworker housing scheme, which helps public sector workers such as teachers and nurses to buy or rent homes, to voluntary sector staff. “That would allow them to stay with us,” he said.
But Cameron warned against the dangers of extending the scheme too far. “If we expand it too widely, it’ll start to have less meaning,” he said.
Responding to Cameron’s speech, third sector minister Ed Miliband said that the Conservative leader was “dogmatically committed to cutting the size of the state”. Miliband said: “For him, however much he may protest, the third sector will always be a cut-price alternative to government funding.”