Voluntary Power Consultation Report
The original consultation document sought views on how the third sector in Scotland could be expanded and, particularly,
how it could play a greater role in the provision of public services.
The consultation process was very worthwhile exercise. We received responses from a variety of organisations and also discussed these issues at a roundtable event with representatives of leading voluntary sector organisations and these threw up many innovative and interesting ideas. We are grateful to all those who took part and, as the culmination of that process, this report looks at the questions posed in the earlier document and makes some specific recommendations which we think could extend the role of the third sector in Scotland.
The recommendations within the report include:
· Extend the take up of direct payments in social care by removing the barriers to greater take up identified by our consultation respondents such as unnecessary bureaucracy and lack of awareness of the scheme amongst local authority staff, whilst at the same time looking at providing more information about social care providers through a directory in each local authority area.
· Extend the role of the third sector in the provision of public services by giving local communities and people much greater control over the services they use. This would enable them to choose services that best meet their needs and foster a wider range of providers which are the keys to higher standards.
· Maintain the vital independence of the voluntary sector through clear and robust governance arrangements within third sector organisations, underpinned by transparency about where funding comes from and what it is for.
· Enhance public confidence in, and support for, the third sector through the encouragement of a ‘Voluntary Service at Home’ scheme. This would enable gap-year students, amongst others, to become involved in charity work at home, similar to work they often undertake abroad.
· Consideration should be given to devolving employment law and some of the responsibilities of the Department of Work and Pensions to the Scottish Parliament. Devolving employment law would help in the extension of direct payments and more local control over areas such as finding employment for benefit claimants would help smaller Scottish voluntary organisations in their bids for work.
· Focus on developing robust and objective means of measuring outcomes along the lines of those used by Barnado’s. This would enable better comparisons to be made of the effectiveness of services provided by local authorities and other bodies.
This consultation exercise has reinforced Reform Scotland’s view that the voluntary, or third, sector has a vital role to play in the creation of a better, fairer society in which power is exercised by people or as close to them as possible. The expertise of the voluntary sector can both raise the quality of our public services and help us to achieve better value for money. We need to harness this expertise by ensuring that public services are provided by organisations which best meet the needs and wishes of people and local communities. This can only be done by extending public choice and removing barriers which prevent voluntary sector organisations from providing services.