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About this book

The last two decades of the twentieth century saw the most fundamental changes in British social policy since the creation of the welfare state in the 1940s. From Margaret Thatcher's radical reassessment of the role of the state to Tony Blair's 'Third Way', the voluntary sector has been at the heart of these changes. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, voluntary organisations have been cast in leading roles on the social policy stage. They are expected to make key contributions to countering social exclusion; to regenerating communities; to providing social housing and welfare services; to promoting international aid and development; and to developing and sustaining democratic participation and the active community.

But how are voluntary sector organisations grappling with the implications of their new, expanded role? How is their relationship with the state changing in practice? This book, which has its origins in an international conference of leading academics in the field, provides answers to these pressing questions. It analyses the numerous and complex ways in which the formulation and implementation of social policy is dependent on the contributions of the voluntary sector. It discusses the impact of the new policy environment on voluntary organisations. And it suggests that the successful implementation of social policy requires government to acknowledge and nurture the distinctive features and contributions of voluntary sector organisations. Voluntary Organisations and Social Policy in Britain is essential reading not only for the many people studying, working in or working with the voluntary sector in Britain but also for anyone who is interested in the formulation and implementation of social policy.

Table of Contents

1. Voluntary Organisations and Social Policy: Twenty Years of Change

The immediate origin of this collection of essays was the twentieth anniversary symposium held at the Centre for Voluntary Organisation of the London School of Economics in September 1998. More than thirty voluntary sector researchers from many countries came together over two days to examine the links between third sector organisations and the public policy contexts within which they operate. This volume brings together just a small proportion of the many stimulating papers prepared especially for that event. The papers here have been selected for the perspectives they provide on our theme of ‘change and choice’.
Margaret Harris, Colin Rochester, Peter Halfpenny

2. Public Policy, Social Policy and Voluntary Organisations

In this chapter, I want to address some of the main implications for voluntary organisations of the changes in public policy now taking place across the developed world. One of the most significant trends in voluntary action in the UK over the 1990s has been the closer relations that have been developing between voluntary agencies and the state, both locally and nationally (Kendall and Knapp, 1996). These developing relationships have taken a variety of different forms, ranging from new funding arrangements to active institutional partnerships.
Nicholas Deakin

3. Tackling Social Exclusion: The Contribution of Voluntary Organisations

This chapter can be seen as a bridge between the broad social policy themes discussed in the first two chapters and the more specific studies of policy implementation that follow later in this volume. Thus the chapter has two objectives. First, it examines social exclusion, which is a major theme, or ‘current’, of the new policy agenda. Second, it speculates about the possible implications of the rise of this new ‘policy current’ for different types of voluntary organisations.
David Billis

4. Contracting: The Experience of Service Delivery Agencies

In this chapter we turn from consideration of the broad social policy context and a major theme or ‘current’ of the contemporary policy agenda to the first of a series of studies of specific areas of policy implementation. Its focus is one of the most significant changes of the 1990s for organisations involved in the delivery of welfare services in the UK, the implementation in 1993 of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990. The chapter draws on the findings from three separate but interlinked studies1 to highlight significant impacts of the contract culture on the finances and management of these organisations and on the ways in which volunteers were involved in their work.
Duncan W. Scott, Lynne Russell

5. Regulation: The Impact on Local Voluntary Action

This chapter looks at the way in which the changing social policy environment in the UK has been accompanied by increasingly stringent measures to regulate the activities of voluntary organisations in order to minimise the risks inherent in using private bodies, rather than the institutions of the state, to meet social need. It examines the impact of regulation, registration and inspection on the activities and organisation of the many thousands of small local organisations which make up the great majority of the population of the voluntary and community sectors.1 And it shows how the burdensome nature of risk-minimisation measures can be at odds with the encouragement of voluntary action and community involvement which has been a social policy goal for successive administrations and which is an important component of the Blair government’s ‘Third Way’ project.
Colin Rochester

6. Regeneration: The Role and Impact of Local Development Agencies

This chapter focuses on area regeneration policy and explores the implications for voluntary and non-profit organisations (VNPOs).1 It argues, first, that over the 1990s such regeneration policies have shifted from being primarily economic towards being concerned with the holistic regeneration of local communities. That is, there have been moves to consider together the needs for social, economic and community regeneration. In this respect, social and economic policies have become increasingly integrated (Hall and Mawson, 1999). Second, the chapter emphasises the growing importance of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in such initiatives, both as a tool of policy implementation and as a means to promote social inclusion (Peck and Tickell, 1994; Jones, 1998; McQuaid, 1998). (This theme is explored in more depth by Marilyn Taylor in the following chapter and in Osborne and Ross, 1999.) Finally, the chapter focuses in particular on the role of Local Development Agencies (LDAs). These are VNPOs whose role is to support and foster voluntary and community action in their own communities and who operate at the interface between the voluntary sector and government (Osborne, 1999).
Stephen P. Osborne, Kathleen Ross

7. Partnership: Insiders and Outsiders

The UK voluntary sector has long seen itself as a watchdog on the state, exerting an influence on policy from outside the sphere of government, and it takes pride in its campaigning and lobbying role (Commission on the Future of the Voluntary Sector, 1996; Taylor, 1998). However, current policies are drawing many organisations into the policy process in another role — as ‘partners’. For some, this offers the potential for new forms of governance for the twenty-first century. Others see it as a source of frustration and continued marginalisation, coopting voluntary and community organisations as ‘peripheral insiders’ (Maloney et al., 1994) to a government agenda.
Marilyn Taylor

8. Providers of Care for Older People: The Experience of Community Care

Many changes in community care in the UK are currently under way, prompted by the 1990 National Health Service and Community Care Act. Final implementation was in 1993, but the full impacts are still working their way through. The 1990 Act aimed to alter four balances:
  • between institutional and community-based care;
  • between supply-led, provider-dominated services and needs-led, purchaser-dominated services;
  • between NHS and local government responsibilities for decision-making and funding; and
  • between public and independent (voluntary and private) sector provision.
Jeremy Kendall, Martin Knapp

9. Grant-Making Foundations: Policy Shapers or Policy Takers?

This chapter moves the spotlight away from organisations which provide services or undertake other activities for the benefit of groups of users to those whose function is to provide funds to operating organisations of that kind. Like operating charities grant-making foundations work in the ‘space’ between market and state (Deakin, 1996; Kendall and Knapp, 1996; Knight, 1993). The size, shape and nature of that ‘space’ in large part determines what foundations do and the demands made upon them. In that respect, foundations are policy takers. But many foundations have pioneered the funding of new approaches and services which have subsequently been incorporated into statutory provision. In that respect, foundations have been policy shapers. At the same time, however, grant-making foundations have traditionally claimed that they have nothing to do with the state.
Diana Leat

10. International Development NGOs: Policy Conflict and Convergence

This chapter is concerned with UK-based voluntary organisations involved with the provision of international development assistance to poor countries – sometimes called non-governmental international aid agencies — and explores the ways in which they both shape and are shaped by development policy. It will use the term ‘development NGOs’ to refer to organisations which are neither governmental nor commercial businesses and which are linked with the international development community of organisations and institutions — the ‘aid industry’. Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are viewed as part of a ‘third sector’ which, despite its blurred boundaries, can be seen to have local, national and international dimensions. The chapter also makes a distinction between ‘Northern NGOs’ (NNGOs) which have their roots in the industrialised countries but which undertake development or emergency relief work in aid-recipient countries, and ‘Southern NGOs’ (SNGOs) which are non-governmental organisations which have emerged locally in the countries where NNGOs are active.
David Lewis

11. Non-profit Housing Agencies: ‘Reading’ and Shaping the Policy Agenda

This chapter reviews the way in which changing social policies in the UK, particularly those developed by a ‘modernising’ Labour government elected in 1997, have impacted on the role of nonprofit housing organisations. It challenges the view that housing associations are merely the agents of government and discusses the ways in which they have also helped to shape the policy agenda for social housing.
David Mullins, Moyra Riseborough

12. Boards: Just Subsidiaries of the State?

This chapter focuses on the governing bodies of voluntary organisations — their ‘boards’, ‘councils’, ‘trustees’ and ‘management committees’. These bodies are a key organisational and legal component of voluntary agencies (Harris, 1996) and experience in the USA suggests that successful implementation of social policy is often dependent on their capacity and cooperation (Saidel and Harlan, 1998). How, then, have UK voluntary boards experienced recent changes in social policy? This chapter seeks to answer this question.
Margaret Harris

13. Volunteers: Making a Difference?

Governments have long been interested in volunteering. From the Good Neighbour Campaign in the late 1970s through the Active Citizen and Make a Difference initiatives in the 1980s and 1990s to New Labour’s ‘Giving Age’, successive administrations of both left and right have sent out a clarion call for people to play a more active role in their communities (Sheard, 1986, 1992; Deakin, 1995). Alongside these high-profile generic campaigns governments have also adopted more targeted approaches, seeking to involve volunteers from particular groups in society in pursuit of specific policy objectives. The precise focus of these initiatives has been determined by the specific policy concerns of the day. Sheard (1995) has argued that governments have viewed volunteering as ‘a panacea for whatever society’s current ills happen to be’ (p. 116). Thus in the 1960s the focus of attention was on youth disaffection; in the 1980s it shifted to mass unemployment; while in the late 1990s volunteering is seen as having a key role to play in combating social exclusion.
Justin Davis Smith

14. Users: At the Centre or on the Sidelines?

Until the election of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in 1979, the idea of ‘user involvement’ in voluntary organisations was largely rooted in notions of democratic participation. The new government shifted the focus to ideas of consumer preference and demands (Deakin, 1996), fuelled by New Right notions of dismantling the state and enhancing individual freedom.
Michael Locke, Paul Robson, Steven Howlett

15. Voluntary Organisations in a Changing Social Policy Environment

Chapters 1 and 2 of this book outlined the ‘seismic shifts’ in the social policy landscape of the UK during the last two decades of the twentieth century — including the move from welfare statism to welfare pluralism, the rise of marketisation and the favouring of business management models. What have these shifts meant for the voluntary sector inhabitants of the social policy landscape, those who have to implement social policy?
  • To what extent have they themselves changed in response to their changing environment?
  • Have voluntary organisations been forced into change or have they exercised autonomy and choice?
  • And have they themselves been able to play a role in the development of social policy?
Margaret Harris
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