NEWS IN FOCUS: HOT ISSUE - Are public sector services better run by voluntary organisations?

GILL OLIVER, director of services at Macmillan - YES

Public sector services have benefited significantly and continue to benefit from closer association with voluntary organisations, gaining value from the years of experience, skill and expertise amassed by their many staff. If the users of services, whether for cancer or other diseases, are kept as the centre of focus for activity and if their needs, wants and aspirations are continually used as the drivers then services will be developed and led in the best and most effective way.

ED MAYO, co-author of the Mutual State and executive director of the New Economics Foundation - NO

Public services are not necessarily better run by voluntary organisations - the idea of Help the Aged taking over the NHS or Neighbourhood Watch the Home Office is a non-starter. But they may be better run as voluntary organisations. Voluntary organisations have a clear social purpose and the freedom as self-governing organisations to be responsive to people in need. Public services also have a clear social purpose, but staff have little freedom.

BETH EGAN, deputy director, Social Market Foundation - NO

The same virtues that make many voluntary organisations distinctive - independence, flexibility, local focus - are also the reasons why they are not best suited to deliver public services funded by the general taxpayer. Voluntary organisations should play to their strengths of providing innovative, human-scale services to their chosen target population. Where there is a good fit with a public sector service requirement then fine. But let's be honest when there isn't.

CHRIS BALL, voluntary sector secretary for the trade union Amicus - NO

In the main, people who provide the public with services are committed professionals whether they are in the private sector or the voluntary sector. There are exceptions and there are very bad exceptions, and I would not say that all the bad things are on one side of the scales or the other. Healthy organisations are the important thing, and unless they get their people policies right they are unlikely to deliver good quality services, whether voluntary agency or public body.

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