The final report from the National Coalition for Independent Action Inquiry into the Future of Voluntary Services calls on voluntary and community services to face up to a decisive moment in the history of voluntary action.
In a blistering critique of the threats posed to the values and work of the voluntary sector, voluntary groups are challenged to fight for the rights of the people they serve, protect their own independence and resist the privatisation of public services.
NCIA also accuses leadership bodies and major charities of squandering the unique respect and radical space that charities and voluntary groups have occupied in British society, by allowing themselves to become the willing servants of Government and of private corporations as they take over public services.
Based on extensive research over the last year, NCIA’s Inquiry shows how voluntary services have been “re-engineered” to serve and support cuts in services and spending, and assist the outsourcing of what’s left. In the process, the voice of charities, whose duty is to speak out against and oppose these catastrophic changes, has been silenced by the cooption and compromise of bidding for contracts and acceptance of ‘marketplace’ values.
NCIA’s report Fight or Fright: Voluntray Services in 2015 has been welcomed by voluntary organisations, including the Refugee Council and Children England. The report concludes that:
- The environment for most voluntary services, especially local groups, is difficult, hostile and getting worse for the people they exist to serve.
- There has been widespread acceptance of the shift to commercial relationships, cuts to public services and the privatisation of what remains. This has allowed both Labour and Coalition Governments to use voluntary services groups to drive through policies that create desperate hardship amongst poor and vulnerable people.
- The ideological basis for these changes has been largely embraced or ignored, with voluntary groups expected to morph into “private sector lookalikes” and struggle to the front of the queue to pick up contracts. Fear of losing out has kept them in line.
- There has been a shameful failure of leadership. The sector’s leadership bodies – especially but not exclusively NCVO and ACEVO – have responded to pressures from the State and the private sector in complicit and supine ways. They have failed to stimulate, let alone organise, any meaningful opposition to slashing of services for poor people and disadvantaged communities, and direct cuts to these people’s living standards. And they have actively promoted partnerships with private corporations with reputations for criminality, dishonesty, poor employment practice and other abuses.
A brief summary of the report can be found http://www.independentaction.net/2015/02/04/voluntary-services-face-bleak-future-as-servants-of-the-government/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Bleak+future+for+Voluntary+Services+as+…&utm_source=YMLP&utm_term=here
Many of the report’s concerns are echoed in the reports from the Barings Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector; the final ‘Big Society Audit’ from Civil Exchange; and, initiatives such as the Declaration of Interdependence, produced by Children England and the TUC.
Fight or Fright calls for:
- voluntary services groups to speak out about and act against the cuts and privatisation of rights and services, as an ethical duty;
- the replacement of contracts by grants to support charitable aims rather than government agendas;
- current commissioning and procurement practices to be abandoned and replaced by participative and integrated funding mechanisms that are fit for purpose;
- voluntary services groups to set ethical conditions as part of any contracting, and to refuse to allow their resources, especially volunteer effort, to generate profit for private firms;
- members of representative bodies, such as NCVO and ACEVO, to make them accountable, and seek the voice and action needed to challenge cuts and austerity measures – or vote with their feet and re-build a collective voice elsewhere.
This final report is a summary of the material contained in 17 separate reports produced as part of the Inquiry. All these reports are downloadable from the NCIA website http://www.independentaction.net/ncia-leaflets-and-research/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Bleak+future+for+Voluntary+Services+as+…&utm_source=YMLP&utm_term=here