The voluntary sector will have an important role to play in meeting society's psychological needs over the next decade, according to Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation.
In an interview to mark the publication of the foundation's new report, Sinking and Swimming: Understanding Britain's Unmet Needs, Mulgan said the sector could fill the gaps in government social policy in areas such as isolation and social support.
"These are things that the voluntary sector tends to be better placed to deal with, and the more we move into the territory of psychology and psycho-social needs, the more the sector becomes potentially more important," he said.
"The third sector is likely to be better at things like befriending services and the local-level support needed more and more by older people in particular, where statutory services have retreated."
But Mulgan, former director of policy at Number 10, said the sector still faced challenges in "seeing people in the round" and providing holistic, rather than "function-specific" services. "On balance, the third sector is better than the public sector at seeing people in the round - but it's far from perfect."
The report calls for "ambitious projects" that link together civil society and public sector activity.
"In an ideal world, there would be much more sharing of information and networking between voluntary organisations and the public sector as well," said Mulgan. "We don't really have joined-up or holistic services in any fields."