When the going gets tough: Charities’ experiences of public sector commissioning

The way that public services are delivered is changing fast. Driven both by financial factors and new beliefs about how to commission services, a very different world is emerging, and everyone is starting to feel the effects. A path-breaking NPC report published tomorrow will give an honest snapshot of how all this is going from the perspective of the charity sector.

Charities and other not-for-profit organisations have been delivering public services for years. Some people think this is a good thing, while others fear it has led to mission drift and silenced charities’ voices as campaigners. For good or bad, there is no denying the importance of government funding to the sector: a third of charities rely heavily on income from government contracts and grants.

And the government wants to go further. It sees in its various public services and localism agendas a world in which charities and social enterprises, as well as for-profit companies, are involved in delivering many more public services as the state pulls back.

So what kind of world is likely to emerge, and how can we ensure that it works well? At NPC, we care very much about the ability of the social sector to help as many people as possible, creating a real impact in their lives. So we’re delighted to be launching our report into charities’ experiences of public sector commissioning this week. Tomorrow, we publish When the going gets tough, which sets out the results of our commissioning survey, sent to 750 charities across England and Wales earlier this year. We are grateful to Zurich for supporting us in its production.

The way commissioning shapes the social sector matters enormously and will have a major impact on the texture of the society we create. This survey is one of the first to really try to understand how the new commissioning world is working out for the charitable sector. We hope the results will be interesting for all those with a stake in public service delivery—charities, commissioners, funders, private providers and service users—and offer a picture of what is and isn’t working at the moment, and what we can learn from this. It is early days, but we need to get a handle on what is going on now—not when the deeds have all been done.

When the going gets tough will be available to download for free from NPC’s website from Tuesday 29 May. This is the first in a series of blogs focusing on charities’ experiences of the changing world of commissioning which will run throughout this week.