Voluntary sector faces an uphill struggle to a Big Society
One million reason for reform: unleashing the potential of the voluntary sector in early years services
A report released today by the Taskforce on Early Years for the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations is calling for greater partnership between the voluntary sector and Government to help deliver the services needed by more than a million children to overcome intergenerational deprivation or neglect.
The report, “One million reasons for reform: unleashing the potential of the voluntary sector in early years services”, says the government’s aim of putting many of its services in the hands of community groups and voluntary organisations could fail to make headway unless national and local Government changes the way it operates create a level playing field to allow charities to fairly compete with the public sector in the tendering process for the commission of services.
The report argues that charities and community groups are the ones with the skills and experiences capable of offering families the support they need – they are often closer to the families and children who are asking for support, allowing services to be tailored to their needs. However, the Taskforce says charities are still forced to take a back seat to local authorities in terms of policy making, the commissioning practice, their capacity to be able to tender for bids, as well as additional barriers such as VAT which distort the market and prevent them from competing fairly.
New aspects of commissioning practice, such as the ‘payment by results’ remuneration system, will be the first tests of Government’s commitment to voluntary sector delivery. To succeed, the Task Force warns that Government needs to ensure that funds get to the frontline organisations rather than to the commissioners. Also, the system of payment in arrears could be replaced by a method of additional payments on top of a basic contractual sum – this would help small organisations without the capital required to tide them over until the evaluation of outcomes.
The report also calls specifically for the ring-fencing of the Early Intervention Grant to ensure the sustainability of many Early Years services.
Among its recommendations the report calls for:
- Better engagement with the voluntary sector in developing policy.
- Reform of VAT to allow charities to reclaim payments.
- A step-change in commissioning practice, including efforts to build up the capacity of local charities and community groups so they can operate as equal partners to local authorities.
Anne Longfield OBE, Chair of ACEVO's Taskforce on Early Years and Chief Executive, of 4Children said:
"Government has set out an ambition for a major shift in delivery of services for children and families to the voluntary and community sector to offer families the local, tailor made and responsive services they need. But without fundamental reform and protection of funding, we risk going into reverse rather than making progress. Success would mean millions of lives improved, and billions saved further down the line in public spending. Failure would mean a worse start in life for millions of children, and taxpayers sitting on a fiscal time bomb.
“The Taskforce is calling for a change in culture across government and at a local level to create partnerships with the voluntary sector to create a new system of support for children and families – driven and led by communities. However fundamental change must take place in order to make this happen. This means removing barriers to create a level playing – from policy making to commissioning, to overcome a David and Goliath situation.
“New systems such as the forthcoming payment by results are an opportunity to devise more open and inclusive ways of working which build in charities and communities from the start. We have a unique opportunity to do things differently for children and families – Government must not let it slip away.”
Notes to Editors
For further information, please contact:
Attila Kulcsar at Attila.Kulcsar@4Children.co.uk or call 020 7522 6919 / 07917542464
(or Ralph Michell at email@example.com or call 020 7280 4972 / 07500 780 989)
Taskforce on Early Years
Established by ACEVO, the charity leaders body, the taskforce brought together major children’s charities in the UK including, 4Children, Action for Children, Barnados and The Children's Society, in order to form a collective voice to influence the development of the Government's Foundation Years policy statement, due to be published shortly. http://www.acevo.org.uk/page.aspx?pid=2373
The taskforce will be meeting Sarah Teather MP, Children’s Minister, to discuss the report shortly.
4Children is the national children and families charity which develops, influences and shapes national policy on all aspects of children, young people and families lives and works with a wide range of partners to deliver real support for children and families in their community. It is one of the largest not for profit Children’s Centre providers in the country and currently runs 40 Children’s Centres and 22 Day Nurseries. For more information visit www.4Children.org.uk
Give Me Strength is a national campaign, run by 4Children, which demands more help for families to avert crisis. http://www.givemestrength.org.uk/