Debate on 'fourth sector' reignited

The debate about putting non-profit public service delivery into a 'fourth sector' has been reopened in a panel discussion at the annual Directory of Social Change Charity Law Conference.

"Public service delivery on contract by non-profits and mutuals is not what most people understand by charity - the lustre that the word charity enjoys is at risk," said Luke FitzHerbert, senior researcher at the Directory of Social Change, speaking in a personal capacity.

"It might be best if service delivery is done through trading companies or community interest companies to keep the word charity closer to what the public thinks it is about."

The issue was raised in 1993 in the research study Voluntary Action by Barry Knight, founder of social policy think tank Centris. FitzHerbert said the debate should be reopened because of the cross-party support for voluntary sector public service delivery.

Other panellists, including Turning Point chief executive Lord Victor Adebowale and Stephen Bubb of Acevo, argued against splitting the sector.

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