Public contracts 'undermine charities' independence'

National Coalition for Independent Action says commissioning practices are particularly damaging to the sector

The independence of voluntary organisations is being undermined by their growing role in delivering public services, according to a new report by the National Coalition for Independent Action.

The coalition, which opposes attempts by the Government to employ charities to meet its policy agenda, worked with Adur Voluntary Action to produce the report.

It is based on interviews with 16 charitable organisations in West Sussex and demonstrates the impact of growing central government focus on the role of voluntary organisations as providers of public services.

The report says there is tension between calls for the voluntary sector organisations to work in partnership with each other while competing for contracts.

Particular damage is done by commissioning policies and processes, which turn independent voluntary organisations into subcontractors and encourage the view that organisations have to be big to survive, it says.

Andy Benson, joint convenor of the NCIA, said:"In their attempts to bring voluntary agencies firmly under their control, to deliver outsourced public services and to operate in prescriptive and inappropriate ways, statutory sector agencies are destroying the very things they say they value about voluntary action - flexibility, accessibility, experimentation, independence of action and the capacity to improve policy and practice."

He warned: "They are killing the goose that lays the golden egg."

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