The Charity Commission is to survey all 160,000 main registered charities to assess how many are providing public services under contract to government.
The survey, which was announced at yesterday's commission conference for charities delivering public services, will be sent out later in the spring.
The commission hopes the results will offer the clearest picture yet of the scope and extent of service delivery by the voluntary sector. According to Nick Aldridge, director of strategy at Acevo, the best source of this information has until now been the National Audit Office, whose latest estimate put voluntary sector service delivery at less than 1 per cent of total spending on public services.
The results will come out this summer and will contribute to the commission's revised guidance on charities delivering public services.