Rights with meaning: Protecting the independence of advice and advocacy charities
The Baring Foundation has published 'Rights with meaning', a report on the work of its Strengthening the Voluntary Sector programme in 2008. It focuses on the independence of advice and advocacy charities.
The foundation, which awarded grants worth £1.2m in 2008 to seven initiatives established to increase the sector's independence, says in the report Rights with Meaning that increased commissioning and the personalisation of public services are among the main dangers.
See some of the key findings below, Third Sector news item at http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/980893/
Advice organisations are currently facing a range of threats to their independence
Fixed fees – as part of major government reforms of the advice sector, organisations delivering legal aid are now paid at a standard fixed rate per case, replacing a system based on funded posts delivering an agreed number of hours. This approach is putting severe pressure on the ability of organisations to maintain levels of quality and remain financially viable.
CLACs, CLANs and integrated social welfare centres – these are a government-led attempt to make local advice services better integrated and coordinated. They potentially involve a number of advice organisations funded under a single contract and are jointly commissioned with local authorities. Serious concerns about this
development from advice agencies include over-prescription in the types of services provided, reduction in quality,dismantling of local advice services and damage to the public’s perceptions of the delivery organisation’s independence from government.
The rise of New Public Management and commissioning – the problems being faced are symptomatic of the government’s approach to funding and administering services delivered by the voluntary sector. The principal mechanism for administering this is commissioning, which emerges from activity across the STVS programme as a formidable threat to independence. The approach means that whilst there is reduced public sector provision of services, there is an increase in central control over the incoming providers of those services. It assumes that performance and value for money are best improved by introducing competition, targets and extensive reporting arrangements, reflecting a model of service provision that does not take adequate account of the needs of users or the expertise of providers. Commissioning is duly criticised by organisations for reducing flexibility, the ability to meet needs, the capacity to dissent, the ability to collaborate, the freedom of organisations to set their own priorities and to provide the wider benefits of services beyond the tightly defined contract outputs.
Click here to access the report: 'Rights with meaning', research report: Protecting the independence of advice and advocacy charities
To request a hard copy of the report, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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