Research finds little evidence that public services run by third sector are better for users

Third Sector Research Centre says commissioners still have doubts about the ability of voluntary organisations to run services

There is little independent evidence to suggest that public services commissioned from voluntary sector organisations are better for users, according to a review by the Third Sector Research Centre.

The review, which examined 48 pieces of research published between 2004 and 2010, says that evidence on the impact of third sector service delivery is scarce and commissioners continue to have doubts about the capacity of third sector organisations to take on contracts.

Rob Macmillan, author of the report and research fellow at the University of Birmingham, said more attention had been paid to how organisations could navigate and cope with the demands of commissioning than how to improve the services they provide to their users.

The review says many sources had noted the need for a cultural shift among organisations to increase their understanding of new processes, build relationships with commissioners and frame bids around what purchasers wanted to buy rather than what organisations wanted to deliver.

The research also demonstrated an "information deficit" on each side, with commissioners lacking knowledge of third sector providers and voluntary sector organisations not knowing enough about commissioning practices.

Ralph Michell, head of policy at chief executives body Acevo, said: "We know lots of third sector organisations could deliver a better service, and they’re often frustrated in their attempts to deliver their services by poor commissioning.

"We are looking forward to the centre producing forward-looking research that addresses some of the issues that stand in the way of some third sector organisations delivering."

Ruth Stokes recommends

Third Sector Research Centre

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