Sector umbrella bodies have called on the government to invest more in training procurement officials to address the "significant barriers" to charities’ involvement in public services.
In a joint submission to the Treasury before the Budget next month, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and five other bodies, including the Charity Finance Group and the Institute of Fundraising, recommend expanding the reach of the Commissioning Academy, which trains public sector commissioners to commission services in a way that considers the needs of voluntary sector organisations and was formally launched last year.
"We are concerned that many organisations are experiencing significant barriers to their involvement," the submission says. "We strongly recommend that government invests more in training procurement officials across the public sector to achieve their Open Public Services policy objectives."
The submission calls for additional support to be made available to voluntary organisations that want to deliver public services.
This could be done, it says, through the £10m Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, which is managed by the Social Investment Business on behalf of the Cabinet Office, and the Office for Civil Society masterclasses, which were held last year to help charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises win and deliver public services contracts.
The signatories to the submission say they are concerned about the lack of information on the implementation of the Public Services (Social Value) Act and that more needs to be done to champion it within government.
They call for a full review of the act to ensure its principles are realised.
The Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme, which allows charities to claim Gift Aid-like relief on small cash donations totalling up to £5,000 a year without the usual paperwork, was a positive initiative, the organisations say, but unnecessary restrictions will prevent it reaching its targets.
The submission calls for the scheme to be amended so that any charity registered for Gift Aid can make a claim through the scheme and for the amount that can be claimed to be increased. Charities must claim £1 in Gift Aid for every £10 claimed under the scheme and must have made Gift Aid claims in two of the previous four years.
Concerns are also raised that the proposed criteria for the social investment tax relief scheme will hamper take-up because of limits on the size of organisations that can benefit and the total amount of investment that can go into each organisation, and restrictions on trading subsidiaries.
It also recommends that government considers what can be done to increase the amount raised through legacy giving.