The purpose of this paper is to trace the origin and development of the increased use of the voluntary sector in the delivery of public services in the UK and to identify both the threats and opportunities that this policy poses.
The paper uses government documents to examine policies and models for change. This is located within a discussion of the literature around the developing role of the voluntary sector in public service provision against the backdrop of wider neo‐liberal public sector reform.
New Labour laid the basis for a major expansion in the use of the voluntary sector in public service provision as part of its public service reform programme. It did so with a range of sometimes contradictory justifications. The policy is now being extended by the new coalition government.
The process of change outlined in the paper is continuing, so it is not possible to make conclusive statements regarding its impact. Further research will be required to monitor the effects.
Alerting the voluntary sector organisations to the potential problems of large‐scale involvement in public service provision may assist them in retaining their independence and effectiveness.
The paper contributes to a necessary (and overdue) assessment of the impact of the changed role of the voluntary sector in public service provision on the sector itself, the services provided and the surrounding framework of accountability.
Davies, S. (2011), "Outsourcing, public sector reform and the changed character of the UK state‐voluntary sector relationship", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 641-649. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513551111172468
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