Editorial: Remember your dignity when you flirt with the state

Stephen Cook

If any one theme has dominated life in the year now trailing to a close, it was the relationship between the voluntary sector and the Government. This relationship is edging ever further into new and uncharted territory as a result of the growth in the delivery of public services by voluntary organisations and the expanding proportion of income from statutory sources. And, like many developing relationships, it is fraught with hesitation, anxiety, and questioning.

Do they really love us, or are they just stringing us along? Are they just taking advantage of us because they think we're cheap? If they love us so much, as James Strachan of the RNID said at last week's Acevo conference, why don't they invite us to take part in the state's procurement process?

If we say what we really think, will they stop giving us presents? And anyway, as David Gold points out on the opposite page, why are the presents so much less lavish than the ones they give to the private sector?

These are important questions, and the debates they provoke will undoubtedly go on well into the future. What is worrying about them is that they threaten to produce a sense of confusion, loss of confidence and identity crisis in the voluntary sector.

Perhaps what's needed over the Christmas period is a self-administered dose of the kind of morale-boosting advice you'd give to a teenage daughter worrying about a date - relax, be yourself, and respect yourself. Remember what you believe in, and don't be easily shifted from it. The relationship might not work out and you might have to walk away, but that's better than getting into something unsuitable and regretting it.

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