Sector is failing to press for reform of public services, writes NPC's Fiona Sheil

In the first of a series of 'provocation papers', the think tank's former policy and development manager says charities aren't living up to their potential

Fiona Sheil
Fiona Sheil

The voluntary sector is "failing the public" because it is not pushing forward reform of public services, according to a paper published by the think tank NPC.

In the first of a series of what it is calling "provocation papers" designed to prompt debate, Fiona Sheil, a former policy and development manager at NPC, who is now on a volunteering sabbatical in Detroit, Michigan, says that because government funding makes up more than a third of the sector’s income, "public sector purchasing decisions have undue influence on the way in which the charity sector deploys its resources".

"I believe the charity sector is failing the public. Why? Because it isn’t living up to its potential," says Sheil, who writes in a personal capacity. "Nowhere is this failure more apparent than in public service reform."

She says the "growing crisis in our public services is well known. As the crisis in public services gets only more acute, the charity sector needs to be in rude health – capable of innovation, of standing up for people’s needs and wants, and of making systems, relationships and technology effective. We need a charity sector that leads reform, not just responds to it.

"The charity sector needs to get much better at having the needs and solutions it identifies listened to. This requires an investment in influencing structures, and particularly in collaborative planning and collective voice."

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