People less enthusiastic about public service provision by charities, says report

A study by the consultancy nfpSynergy says people are more uncertain about the issue than before the Conservatives came to power in 2010

Public services: more uncertainty around
Public services: more uncertainty around

People are less enthusiastic about charities providing more public services than they were before the Conservatives came to power, according to a report published today.

The study, by the consultancy nfpSynergy, reveals that 41 per cent of 1,000 people quizzed in July this year said they wanted to see charities play more of a role in delivering public services.

The figure was 56 per cent when the same question was asked to a similar sample size in November 2009, less than a year before a Conservative-led coalition came to power.

However, the change in attitude is characterised more by uncertainty than hostility: the proportion opposed to charities having a bigger role in service provision increased from just 16 per cent to 21 per cent, and 38 per cent now say they are "not sure", compared with 28 per cent eight years ago.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, said the Conservatives' focus on austerity and private sector outsourcing and Labour's proposals to renationalise and expand public services had left people unclear about the role of charities. "We are seeing the rise of uncertainty," said Saxton.

The report, Public Service Provision by Charities, reveals that a majority (53 per cent) thought it was very or somewhat acceptable for charities to provide public services in exchange for government funding. Only 8 per cent said they thought it was somewhat or very unacceptable.

Charities were found to be regarded as the most acceptable external providers of public services – only 35 per cent said they supported private companies doing so. The report says: "This should allay fears that charities will face the same sort of outcry as companies when services are outsourced to them."

The report says government funding has had little impact on individual donations. Sixty-five per cent of respondents said that knowing a charity received state funding would make no difference to their likelihood to donate to it. Thirteen per cent said it would make them less likely to donate – the same amount that said it would make them more likely to give.

According to the report, many respondents thought charities should actually receive more government funding. Those quizzed were asked how much state funding they thought 11 charity sub-sectors received and how much they should receive. In 10 of the 11 sub-sectors, people said they felt the government should be contributing considerably more than they thought it did.

The exception was overseas aid and development: the respondents thought it received 42 per cent of its funding from government but should receive just 29 per cent.

Saxton said the research showed that far from being uncomfortable with charities receiving government funding, the public in fact thought that they should receive more than they currently do.

"There remains a big gap for charities to be delivering public services and for the public to be happy about it to an extent they are not with the likes of Serco and Capita," he said.

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