European charities share concerns about dependence on public money

Dependence on the public purse can limit the freedom of Danish charities to campaign, according to Claus Larsen-Jensen, director of Danish education charity FIC.

Larsen-Jensen told the Third Sector European Network’s seminar on commissioning from the third sector that NGOs’ involvement in Danish public services had increased since a law was passed in 1998 requiring public authorities to cooperate with the sector. But he said getting involved had its costs.

“Sometimes we are in a dilemma over whether to say what we really mean, because we might lose out on contracts next time,” he said.

He said charities delivering services had less time for campaigning and were subject to much more control from commissioners. He said it was unclear what would happen in the future because services run by the sector had not proved to be cheaper than services run by the public sector.

Ariane Rodert, EU policy officer for Famna, Sweden’s umbrella body for non-profit health and social service charities, said Swedish organisations had been put off service delivery because of its complexity and emphasis on price and payment on delivery. She said one big company had delivered a service free of charge for three years in order to dominate the market.

But she said she was “naively optimistic” that new arrangements allowing service users to choose their providers would open the market up to the sector.

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